There have been a number of news articles recently about the DREAM Act children. The Obama administration’s plan to grant temporary work permits to many young, undocumented immigrants who otherwise could be deported is a great step in the way to comprehensive immigration reform.
Critics say that this program may cost more than $585 million and require hiring hundreds of new federal employees to process more than 1 million anticipated requests. However, DHS plans to charge processing fees from each applicant to offset the cost of the program. Starting August 15, eligible people can start applying for this special permit.
Eligible immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years, are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also must not have a criminal record or otherwise pose a safety threat.
They can apply to stay in the country and be granted a work permit for two years, but they would not be granted a legal status, permanent residency or path to citizenship.
DHS continues to reiterate that this will be a fee driven process that pays for itself and will not use taxpayer dollars, as most of USCIS budget does come from application fees it collects for immigration benefits.
Now the critics (mostly Republicans who hate immigrants such as Lamar Smith, R-TX, House Judiciary Committee Chairman) object to granting fee waiver to eligible people. They say that depending on how many applicants don’t pay, the government could lose between $19 million and $121 million. By the way Rep. Smith was responsible to enact the 1996 IIRIRA law that in large part created the problem of mass numbers of undocumented people we have today.
The government estimated that about one million applicants may apply and about 15%-20% of those will be denied.
New information about the program should be available by Aug. 1.
However, what the critics do not take into consideration is the cost of deportation proceedings against all these people and the cost of removal itself, which is very very expensive. There is the cost of maintaining jails, cost of ICE agents, cost of ICE attorneys in court, cost of immigration judges, plane tickets to remove people to their home country and ancillary costs associated with the deportation process that are much more expensive. The costs are one part of the equation but should not be a major part since after all this is people's lives that we are talking about.