More than one-third of New York City’s unauthorized immigrants would be eligible for protection from deportation under President Barack Obama’s executive orders, about 10% fewer proportionally than those who qualify nationwide, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
The Washington, D.C., think tank estimated that 37% or 238,000 unauthorized immigrants of the 643,000 in the city would be safe from deportation under protections for young immigrants and parents of legal residents or citizens. Nationally, 5.2 million (46%) of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants would be spared, according to the institute.
That discrepancy is due to the unique makeup of New York City’s immigrant population and how they come here, according to Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute.
“You’re talking about a population that is much more heavily Caribbean and South American in New York than is the case nationally,” Capps said.
Unlike Mexican and Central Americans who get to the U.S. through illegal border crossings, New York City’s unauthorized immigrants tend to stay when visas or work permits expire — a method more suited for adult immigrants and one that has fewer restrictions on gaining legal recognition. For instance, these immigrants can marry out of their unauthorized status. Further, the city has a higher cost of living, keeping people from starting families that would give cover to some unauthorized immigrants under Obama’s executive actions.
“You have more opportunity to marry someone who is a citizen or green card holder,” Capps said.
In Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the country, nearly two-thirds of the unauthorized population is from South America and Asia. Also, 70% live there without children. All told 61,000 in Queens could be saved from deportation since they are the parent of a U.S. citizen or legal resident, while 30,000 unauthorized immigrations would be protected because they came here as a child.
“The question in New York becomes, how many people are going to come forward given that the eligible population is small as a share of the total” number of unauthorized immigrants, Capps said.
Between the first Obama order in 2012 protecting young immigrants to the U.S. and 2014, there were 32,237 approved applications from New York state, fewer than in Illinois, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics. The expanded protections for young immigrants and the new program for parents will be open by spring.
“We still see people who qualified in 2012 when DACA was announced and never knew,” said New York Immigration Coalition’s Camille Mackler, using the acronym for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
She said the distrust of government among immigrant communities, as well as the multitude of cultures and diversity in educational and economic standing, makes outreach on these protections difficult.
“You need to be talking to people who are on the ground in the communities because they have the community’s trust,” Mackler said.
But if these unauthorized immigrants take advantage of the new protections, they will get work authorization along with avoiding deportation.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which backs tighter immigration controls, said this will be a boon to their income and could result in more tax payments, but still put a strain on city services.
“It’s pretty much guaranteed to cost New York City money,” he said, “and it’s something they don’t have any control over.”