Loophole Has Allowed Over 1,000 DACA Recipients to Obtain Citizenship

Obama executive amnesty left pathway for illegal immigrants to achieve permanent legal status

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 02 Sep 2017 at 7:21 PM

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program used a loophole to obtain green cards, and more than 1,000 already have become American citizens, according to new data released Friday.

The judiciary panels in the Senate and House of Representatives, which requested the data, put out a joint news release highlighting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics. As of Aug. 21, 45,447 DACA recipients obtained permanent residency, and 1,056 already had become citizens.

DACA, which former President Barack Obama created by executive order in 2012, issues work permits to illegal immigrants brought to America as children and who had been continuously present in the United States since June 16, 2007. It also exempts them from deportation as long as they do not commit crime or break other rules.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that President Donald Trump would decide by Tuesday whether to keep the program in place.

DACA is not supposed to provide a path to citizenship, but tens of thousands discovered they can get around that by exploiting an Obama-era loophole known as "advance parole," a mechanism by which people who are not legal residents can leave the United States and then return legally. According to experts, it typically had been granted to people with pending green card applications who had compelling reasons for wanting to return home, such as to care for a critically ill relative.

Under the Obama administration, however, DACA recipients began receiving permission to leave America under advance parole and then come back. Critics contend the administration employed a broad definition of the word "compelling." Getting admitted back to the United States legally allowed DACA recipients to apply for permanent residency as long as they had a legal sponsor, such as an American spouse or an employer.

The 45,447 who have gotten green cards represent a significant increase over the 22,340 people who got it by the end of the year in 2015, according to statistics released by the government in the past year.

The total number is a relatively small share of all DACA recipients. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said this is probably due to a combination of a lack of awareness and the fact that some recipients simply do not have a qualifying sponsor.

"I think it's both. I think it's primarily the first, that most people don't know they can do this," she said. "The DACA population apparently is not an extremely savvy group of people."

The newly released statistics suggest most DACA recipients who have applied for advance parole have received it. Only 3,993 applications have been denied, for an approval rate of 92 percent. Overall, 60 percent of DACA residents who have applied for green cards have received them. That includes people who pursued a different avenue to permanent residency by claiming their removal would cause an extreme hardship to an American.

Using advance parole is preferable from the standpoint of the immigrant, said Vaughan, because it is substantially cheaper.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Annette Bernhardt, Flickr)

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