Suppose the U.S. government offered temporary legal status in a highly publicized, low-cost way, and the majority of the illegal aliens in the eligible age range ignored it.
What would that tell you about the value systems of the people involved? What would it say about enforcement of the immigration law?
Do the majority of these eligibles think highly enough of the community in which they live to want to get right with the law? Apparently not.
Well the United States did offer such a deal for a group of illegal aliens in their teens to their mid thirties, and 52 percent of those who were age-eligible ignored the offer, preferring, apparently, to remain in the United States in illegal status. The risks of being deported for those without a heavy criminal record is, of course, minimal, and the 52 percent must know that.
This is not one of those fact-free statements we hear sometimes on the campaign trail; this is based on a report by the serious scholars at the solidly funded, migration-friendly Migration Policy Institute, a DC-based think tank. We, however, offer a new interpretation of some of their numbers.
The program, launched without congressional authorization, is the now four-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporary legal status to those currently between the ages of 15 and 35 who claim that they had arrived in the United States illegally before their 16th birthday. These are the DACA program numbers (some rounded) drawn directly and indirectly from the MPI report:
- Immediately and potentially eligible aliens: 1,705,000
- Applied: 820,000
- Approved by USCIS: 728,285
- Rejected by USCIS (by subtraction): 91,715
- Approved, but failed to renew: 42,851
- In current DACA status (approvals minus non-renewals): 685,434
- In current status as percentage of potential eligibles: 40 percent
- Rejected as percentage of potential eligibles: 5 percent
- Approved, but dropped out of program: 3 percent
- Never applied: 52 percent
MPI makes a strong point — it certainly helps the numbers — about the concepts of "immediately eligible" for the program and "potentially eligible", which they characterize as "eligible but for education", which is a bit of a misnomer. The immediately eligible are in the right age ranges and have (or claim to have) a high school degree or claim to be undergoing education of some kind; the "eligibles but for education" group are the right age, but have not made the education claim. There are 1,307,000 in the first group and 398,000 in the second, again according to MPI estimates.
To quote from MPI's press release: "MPI estimates that 63 percent of the immediately eligible population (those meeting all the criteria that could be modeled in the data) had applied for DACA as of March 31 ."
This is narrowly accurate, but it misses a messy and vital element to the puzzle, and that is how the "education requirement" actually plays out — a variable I am sure that is well known to the illegal alien community.
As then-USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas replied under questioning, when the program was new, all the DACA applicant has to do is to be enrolled in an educational institution of some kind on the day that the application was filed. That's all.
The DACA review process was and is a non-demanding one — routinely there are not even interviews of the applicants — and that must be known to the illegal alien community, as must the minimal education requirement.
So anyone who was otherwise eligible for the program could easily meet the education element, even if totally illiterate in both English and Spanish. (More than 72 percent of the immediately eligible are from Mexico and three Central American nations.)
The low level of application, 48 percent, and the even lower level of current full participation in the program, 40 percent, reflect poorly on the argument that there is a strong desire on the part of the illegals for legal presence in the United States.
Why offer any more amnesties, when a majority of those eligible are not interested?