There's a bit of a debate going on among immigration attorneys whether to encourage individuals to apply as soon as possible or to wait until after the election.
Those who favor waiting until after the election are concerned for two reasons. First, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) is under presidential order. If Romney gets elected, DACA could be cancelled in January 2013. So why spend the money? Second, after cancelling DACA, the Romney administration might then refer all the DACA applicants to immigration court and will have their contact details because of the DACA applications.
Those who favor applying early are not blind to the risk of DACA being cancelled if Romney gets elected. They favor early application because even if DACA gets cancelled, applicants can accrue benefits before that happens. First: when an employment authorization application gets filed, the government has to issue an employment authorization card within 90 days. The earliest applicants then are likely to get employment authorization in mid/late November, well before Romney would be sworn into office. Second: An employment authorization card then gets used to obtain a Social Security Number as well as a lawful job. The SSN is very useful for doing things like opening bank accounts and filing tax returns. Third: anyone who lives in a State that issues driver licenses to individuals in deferred action might be able to apply for a driver license just based on a receipt for the DACA application. Most likely the driver license will be good only for 2 years but a 2 year driver license is better than no driver license. So even if Romney gets elected, early DACA applicants will have work authorization, an SSN and maybe even a driver license well before Romney takes office. If Romney were to take away the work authorization, early applicants still would have their SSN and their driver license. Those two documents might be worth the cost of the forfeited work authorization.
What about the risk of referral to immigration court? Individuals who are genuinely eligible for DACA also meet the criteria for prosecutorial discretion: they have been here a long time, they have no major criminal convictions nor significant misdemeanor convictions. Even if they get denied DACA for failure to enroll in school or lack of proof they have been here the last five years, as long as they pass the criminal background criteria, they are not likely to be referred to immigration court because they meet prosecutorial discretion criteria. Hence, the risk of referral for DACA applicants with no criminal history is low.
Every DACA applicant should talk with an experienced immigration attorney. After careful assessment, the attorney will be able to advise whether you are likely to be granted DACA and help you decide whether you want to wait until it is known Obama will serve a second term.