Report: 75K immigrants illegally in Colorado eligible for presidential relief

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Photo: Mexican man living in Denver church basement (AP Photo)
Arturo Hernandez stands in his one-room basement dwelling in Denver on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. The Mexican man who is living in a Denver church basement to avoid a deportation order says that he is afraid to leave because he does not know if he is covered by President Obama's executive order on immigration.

New research shows that about 75,000 immigrants who live in Colorado illegally are eligible for temporary relief from deportation under presidential orders announced last week. That's 42 percent of the unauthorized immigrants living in the state.

Other unauthorized immigrants are eligible for similar protections under previous orders by President Barack Obama, or under protected status granted by previous administrations. Adding them to the number of newly eligible, a total of 56 percent of immigrants living in Colorado illegally, or about 100,000 people, are eligible to stay on a temporary basis.

The Pew Research Center released these numbers on Friday in a report.

Colorado has the fourth-highest percentage of unauthorized immigrants who can be protected by executive orders shielding them from deportation. Idaho tops the list, but its number of unauthorized immigrants is much lower than Colorado's.

That could mean immigrants living illegally in Colorado are more likely to have children and to be entrenched in their communities compared with unauthorized immigrants living in other states. That's because President Obama's orders mostly affect parents who have children who are U.S. citizens, and require applicants to have been in the country for at least five years. They also require paying an application fee and paying back taxes if necessary, and applicants can't have criminal records.

Pew Research Center Senior Demographer Jeffrey Passel led the research. He also found that overall, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in Colorado dropped between 2009 and 2012, from 210,000 to 180,000. Passel says that's notable.

"The political debates around unauthorized immigration have focused on border security and stopping inflows," Passel says. "The debates seem to have as a given that the numbers are going up." But, as his research shows, that's not the case. According to the Pew Research Center, the population of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally fell in 14 states and rose in seven between 2009-2012.

“The numbers are really not growing," Passel says.

President Obama isn't the first to offer temporary relief from deportation to immigrants living in the country illegally. Based on experiences like the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Passel expects 50-75 percent of people eligible for relief will apply. That would mean 37,500 to 56,000 people applying to remain in Colorado legally on a temporary basis under the president's newest order.