WASHINGTON — A new estimate Tuesday says 1.76 million undocumented immigrants in the United States — higher than previous guesses — could benefit from President Barack Obama’s new deportation deferral policy.
The report by the Migration Policy Institute estimates that three out of four likely applicants came to the United States from Mexico or another Central American country.
The US will start accepting applications on August 15 for the program, which will defer deportation and confer a two-year work permit to undocumented immigrants between ages 15 and 30, who came to the US as children, have a certain education level, no criminal history, and meet certain other requirements.
A senior administration official has said it could take “several months” to get the permit because applicants must undergo a rigorous background check.
Family information that is provided to authorities is confidential and cannot be used to open deportation cases, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government has estimated that more than 800,000 people could benefit from the policy change, while the Pew researchers believe the number is closer to 1.4 million.
The MPI estimates that there are already 1.26 million illegal immigrants in the eligible age range, and another half a million who will become eligible once they turn 15.
It says the states that are home to the highest numbers of qualifying undocumented immigrants are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.
Democrats in Congress and civil society groups have been mobilizing in recent days to help undocumented immigrants prepare to apply.
In announcing the measure, Obama said it would not be an “amnesty” or a pathway to citizenship, but that it was “the right thing to do.”
The plan has been largely welcomed by the Latino community and analysts say it could boost Obama’s chances for re-election on November 6.
But Republicans accuse the president of acting from political motives, as both sides try to court the increasingly important Hispanic vote ahead of the presidential poll.