There are less than five days remaining before federal officials begin accepting applications to defer deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, but champions and critics of President Barack Obama’s executive immigration actions are worried the Department of Homeland Security isn’t ready for the task. The glitch-ridden rollout of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in 2013 proved the federal government didn’t possess the launch prowess of companies in the private sector, critics said. Homeland Security has beefed up its operations ahead of the launch of the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which will cover an estimated five million undocumented immigrants who are parents of children born in the U.S.
DHS leased a massive office building in Crystal City, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., where 2,000 federal workers and contractors will process applications, Fox News reported. The U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services predicted that 1.3 million people could apply for the program in the first six months. Supporters of the program have noted that taxpayers won’t foot the bill for the expansion – applicants will pay a $465 fee -- and that the program is not mandatory for all undocumented immigrants.
With undocumented immigrants spread out all over the country, the proposed vetting process for applications have critics worried that the program is vulnerable to widespread fraud. "Those employees are not going to ask people from all over the country to come to Crystal City to be interviewed,” Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said in the Fox News report. “They're not going to be effectively interviewed. They’re going to do online most of their work."
The plan, officially known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, is estimated to cost $324 million to $484 million over the next few years, according to the Fox News report. The launch could face another substantial setback, if Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a funding bill for Homeland Security before the agency runs out of money on Feb. 27. Immigration services are administered by DHS.