A 2012 program that has provided nearly 1 million undocumented immigrant youth work permits and protection from deportation has also generated roughly $422.4 million in application fees, according to federal data released Tuesday.
About 908,500 immigrants who were enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, or who were renewed, each paid a $380 filing charge and $85 for fingerprints and photo, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency.
Immigration activists pointed to the new data as proof that the DACA works.
"DACA is a model for what progress on immigration looks like — changed lives of people who came forward, followed the process and paid their fees — over $422 million so far," said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, one of the largest immigrant youth organizations in the U.S.
But President Obama's efforts to expand deferred action — including one program that would extend deportation protections to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents — have stalled in federal court. Republican leaders in 26 states successfully blocked the programs after they were introduced in November 2014 by filing a joint lawsuit, arguing that they amounted to de facto amnesty.
Obama has argued that the government should focus on deporting "felons, not families." Supports also argued that allowing millions of immigrants to work legally would have widespread economic benefits.
But in May, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals let the federal injunction stand, keeping millions of undocumented, potentially eligible immigrants from enrolling.
Jimenez said Republican votes against the program and their "frivolous lawsuit" are trying to shut the door on millions of people who would otherwise come forward and potentially generate an additional $2.4 billion in first-time application fees, "not to mention renewals and the benefits to our economy of new businesses and jobs."
Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors stronger border enforcement, said the amount of money raised through fees is meaningless without taking into account how much the DACA program cost to administer.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services "has repeatedly refused to answer questions from Congress on how much it spent administering the program," Vaughan told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
USCIS has not replied to request for comment.
This post has been updated with Jessica M. Vaughan's response.