Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. On August 15, 2012 USCIS began accepting applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.)
Initially there was a lot of skepticism about the program and how effective it would be. Many were afraid of exposing their illegal status to immigration authorities. In 2012, USCIS received 152,423 applications and by the end of 2012 USCIS had only approved 1,686 applications. In 2013, USCIS received an additional 437, 497 applications and by the end of that year a cumulative total of 472,831 applications had been approved. Young people started trusting the program and feeling more comfortable applying for it. As of October 2014, out of 702,485 cumulative initial applications filed; 610,375 have been approved and only 32,395 denied. The remaining applications were pending adjudication as of that date. Moreover, 115,565 renewal applications had been received and 22,480 had been approved, with the rest pending and no denials issued.
The above figures show that the program has proven effective and successful. Many young people have come out of the shadows and improved their living situation. Being protected temporarily from removal and having work authorization has enabled thousands of people to apply for and obtain better paying jobs and further pursue higher education.
While this program has been successful, its initial requirements prevented a significant number of people from benefiting from it - specifically, the requirements of being under 31 years old on June 15, 2012 and having to prove that an applicant has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. Fortunately, these requirements have been changed and starting February 18, 2015, a greater number of people could potentially benefit from expanded DACA.
Starting February 18, 2015, you may apply for DACA if you:
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Another important change is that applicants whose applications are approved will now benefit from a three year protection from removal (formerly two years). The rest of requirements remain the same. If you believe that you qualify under expanded DACA and need help with your immigration case, do not hesitate to contact us at (847) 763 8500.
What Deferred Action is and isn’t
Deferred Action is not an amnesty program. It will not provide anyone with legal immigration status or a path to legal status. Only legislative action (such as passage of The Dream Act) can provide such a path to those who are qualified.
Deferred Action is a policy, not a law. The law already allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to use their judgment when dealing with deportable aliens who do not pose a risk to national security or public safety. Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has specifically directed ICE to refrain from placing people who are eligible for Deferred Action into removal proceedings or removing them from the U.S.
You may be able to use your EAD card and social security number to apply for a driver’s license. However, this will entirely depend upon the law of your state of residence. Some states, like Arizona, have already announced that they will not issue driver’s licenses to Deferred Action recipients. To understand the law of your state, you can call the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or visit them on the web.
If you are approved for Deferred Action, you may also be eligible for a travel document known as an Advance Parole. This document would enable you to legally re-enter the U.S. after travel abroad.
The first two steps a potential DACA applicant should take are verifying eligibility and assessing risks. A grant of Deferred Action is entirely discretionary – that is, no applicant is guaranteed a positive decision, and in extraordinary circumstances, a person might be granted Deferred Action even if they did not fully meet the criteria. Each case will be determined individually.
It is very important to consult with an immigration attorney or a highly-experienced immigrant support organization for advice on your specific risks given the details of your case. Do not depend on “word of mouth” to determine if you should move forward or not.
Building a case
To prepare a convincing case for Deferred Action, you will need to assemble documents from multiple sources. Many people will benefit from attorney guidance to ensure that appropriate and sufficient documentation is provided with your evidence. This is especially true for those who entered without inspection, traveled outside the U.S. after June 15, 2007, have had contact with law enforcement, or anticipate other potential complications with their case.
DHS has stated that applicants will have only one opportunity to be considered for Deferred Action. If your application is denied for any reason, the decision by USCIS is final and there will be no appeal. This is another good reason to consult with an immigration attorney who understands the details of the program and has a strong track record of success across a broad range of immigration matters.
Eligibility for Expanded DACA
Deferred Action: what are the risks?
Can I get a fee waiver for my application fee?
Supporting documents for a DACA application
When does a trip abroad break continuous residence?
What does “currently in school” means for a DACA applicant?
What if I’ve had contact with law enforcement?
The DACA process from start to finish
DACA for those in removal or with a final order of removal
Obtaining a travel document after a grant of Deferred Action
What happens when my work permit expires?
Do I need an attorney to file for Deferred Acton?