Deferred action program could temporarily legalize 1.8 million young immigrants

As many as 1.76 million young illegal immigrants could qualify for temporary legal status under President Obama's deferred action program over the next ten years, says a new report from the Migration Policy Institute. That's more than double the Obama administration's initial estimate of 800,000 people who would benefit from the program.

The new number reflects the Obama administration's updated guidelines released last Friday depicting who qualifies for the temporary legal status, which provides relief from deportation and a work permit. Initially, only young illegal immigrants under 30 who entered the country as children, graduated from high school and had no criminal record would make the cut. Now, young people who didn't graduate or receive their G.E.D. can still apply for the legal status as long as they re-enroll in high school by the time they apply. About 1.26 million people currently meet that description and are aged 15 or older, while another 500,000 people would become eligible in the next 10 years.

The government will begin accepting applications online on August 15, and administration officials said the nearly $500 application fee will completely pay for the administrative costs of reviewing the applications. Those accepted will get work permits, and will have to renew their status every two years. The status doesn't provide a path to citizenship or permanent legal status.