NC has 7th-highest number of young immigrants in deferral program

Updated: Sep. 5, 2017 at 12:50 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - North Carolina has the nation's seventh-highest number of young, undocumented immigrants granted deferrals from deportation under a policy that President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will end.

Federal data updated in March shows that 27,385 North Carolina residents have had their applications approved under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that the Obama administration put in place in 2012.

The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, estimates that more than twice as many North Carolina residents – 66,000 – are potentially eligible for DACA deferrals. Of those, 41,000 are eligible immediately, it said.

The program allows people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines, such as a lack of criminal records, could seek deferred removal action for two years. The term is renewable and lets those who qualify legally work.

Trump administration officials said the government will no longer accept new applicants to the program and called on Congress to replace it during an unspecified "wind down period." Applicants who are currently approved won't be immediately affected, according to The New York Times.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg County Republican, said Tuesday he will introduce legislation in the next week "that will provide a fair and rigorous path for undocumented children to earn legal status by requiring them to be employed, pursue higher education or serve in our Armed Forces. I know this kind of commonsense legislative fix can and should unite members of Congress, and I'll be working closely with my colleagues on the path forward."

California and Texas lead the nation in deferrals, which have been granted to more than 787,000 young "dreamers" nationwide.

Immigrant-rights group quickly condemned Trump's action.

"In North Carolina, tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors have used DACA to contribute to the economy, get an education, and invest in the only home they know," Irena Como, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement. "Today the federal government has turned its back on these young people who came out of the shadows and worked hard to build their lives here."

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, said Trump was right in asking Congress to review DACA.

"We must not facilitate ongoing subterfuge of strong immigration policy in any consideration of DACA," Pittenger said in a statement. "We must secure our border, eliminate sanctuary cities, and end efforts to shield illegal immigrants from the rule of law."