The stories of children held back from pursuing educational opportunities, of families separated and weakened by deportations or their threat, of communities uncertain how to integrate and engage immigrants, provide the most compelling support for President Obama’s announcement of a new proposal to grant temporary, limited immigration status to certain immigrant families.
To complement these stories, however, data from the Migration Policy Institute details the potential numbers of individuals who this proposal could reach nationwide and in North Carolina. Approximately 117,000 parents in North Carolina would be eligible for the new deferred action program and another 38,000 young people would be eligible immediately for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In total, this policy has the potential to reach a little more than 40 percent of the state’s total population of immigrants who are undocumented.
These estimates likely overestimate the number that will actually pursue temporary status through these new mechanisms. Evidence from the first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals suggest only 55 percent of those eligible actually applied likely because of cost and fear of identifying as an immigrant without documents. That represents a missed opportunity for North Carolina.
The direct benefits for families of this temporary legal status are clear and well detailed in the media already. But the benefits also extend to the community and the broader economy. More immigrants will now have the ability to pursue higher education and secure better paying jobs. More immigrant workers have better prospects for working in the formal economy and paying income and payroll taxes consistently (in addition to the many dollars already paid by undocumented immigrants through income and sales tax). And more immigrant families can begin to build stronger connections to their communities by purchasing a home or volunteering at their child’s school without fear.
The benefits to us all of an immigration process that strengthens families and provides a pathway to greater opportunity for more people need to be a prominent part of the conversation. In the weeks and months ahead, we will begin documenting these benefits. The bottom line is that we should all commit to supporting the education, outreach and legal support that will be needed to make ensure those eligible in North Carolina pursue this opportunity.