What Is DACA?
Over the last several decades, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants (or “Dreamers”) migrated to the U.S. as minor children. Through no fault of their own, were technically in the United States without a legal status. Some Dreamers were brought to the United States by their parents who arrived undocumented. While others arrived with visas with their parents who eventually overstayed their visit. These young immigrants were vulnerable to deportation back to a country they did not know.
For many years, they lived as Americans but could not participate and contribute to our society and communities. They were also subject to deportation at any time.
To protect these vulnerable young immigrants from deportation, the Obama Administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This immigration policy was announced by the Department of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012. The program was created to provide temporary relief to individuals who entered the U.S. as children and were vulnerable to deportation. If eligible, they could request consideration of deferred action from immigration enforcement for two years, subject to renewal.
These individuals are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action uses prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period. Unfortunately, deferred action did not provide Dreamers with lawful permanent status or a legal pathway to citizenship.
In September 2017, President Trump, by Executive Order, terminated Obama’s DACA program. This decision was met with several lawsuits.
Recent Court Decisions Reinstating DACA
On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”), by a 5-4 decision, rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate the DACA program. The court found that SCOTUS could review the Trump’s administrations termination of the program and held that the administration’s termination of the program was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it was done arbitrarily and capriciously.
Implications of the Decision
The Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision was a big win for DACA proponents, participants, their family, friends, and those in favor of the program. However, SCOTUS made it clear that the Trump Administration (or any future administration) has the power to terminate the program again. Additionally, several states, including Texas, have already brought legal challenges to the DACA program, which are still pending.
As a result of the SCOTUS Decision, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had to reinstate the DACA program and do the following:
- Accept DACA renewal applications from any person who was previously a part of the program;
- Begin accepting first-time DACA applications (that means individuals who never applied for DACA) and advance parole applications from existing DACA recipients.
If you are either applying for DACA for the first time or looking to renew your DACA application, we suggest you meet with an experienced immigration attorney at our office and consider getting representation before filing your paperwork.
USCIS confirms that it will continue with its information-sharing policy that was in place since the commencement of the program. This means that your information should be protected unless you are deemed a national security risk, have committed a serious crime, or, in some way, have committed fraud while filling out your DACA application. Nevertheless, if you doubt the process, hire an experienced immigration attorney like us to walk you through the paperwork.
Who qualifies for DACA?
There are several limitations placed on DACA eligibility. In addition to the criteria listed below, applicants will be required to provide extensive documentary evidence to prove they meet the criteria. Additionally, each applicant is required to pass both a biometric and biographic background check.
The criteria include the following:
- As of June 15, 2012, the applicant was under 31 years old;
- The applicant entered the U.S. while they were under 16 years old;
- From June 15, 2007, to the present, the applicant has continuously resided in the country;
- The applicant moved to the U.S. without an inspection, or their lawful visa status expired before June 15, 2012;
- At the time of the application, the applicant is currently a student, or has graduated from high school or have earned a GED, or has been honorably discharged from the armed forces or the Coast Guard;
- On June 15, 2012, the applicant was physically present within the U.S., and when making the DACA request with USCIS;
- The applicant must not be a threat to public safety or national security;
- Lastly, the applicant must not have previously been convicted of any felony offenses, a significant misdemeanor, or over three misdemeanors of any type.
How to Apply For DACA?
To apply for DACA status, applicants must submit the following:
- Form I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization Document; and Form I-765 WS: Employment Authorization Document economic need supplement form;
- Submit documentary evidence that proves that the applicant meets all the criteria to qualify as a DACA recipient.
To satisfy the physical presence requirement, extensive evidence must be submitted with your applications. We advise submitting at least one proof for every month or risk getting your application denied.
DACA Filing Fee
The USCIS website will have the most up-to-date information regarding the DACA filing fees. Currently, the filing fee is $495. Keep in mind that, in general, there are no fee waivers for DACA applicants. Nevertheless, if an applicant is disabled, in foster care, or have medically related debt and their income fall below 150 percent of the national poverty line, a fee exemption may be granted under limited conditions.
Benefits of the Program
The data shows that DACA is having a positive effect on wages for DACA recipients. Specifically, once a DACA applicant is approved, they will receive employment authorization and a Social Security Number. Many Dreamers today have college degrees and contribute significantly to America. They work as teachers, nurses, accountants and even lawyers.
Notably, the statistic shows that DACA recipients earn higher wages than undocumented workers and undocumented students. These higher wages are important for both DACA recipients and their families. It is also a good source of tax revenues to aid economic growth at the state and federal levels.
However, keep in mind that while DACA students are not eligible for federal benefits, welfare, or student financial aid, DACA recipients may still be eligible for funding through their college or private scholarship.
Moving Forward Under the Biden Administration
As the immigration debate continues, the Biden Administration wasted no time and submitted a proposal to Congress that creates a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers. If passed into law, Dreamers with a high school education and GED recipients could apply for green cards immediately and eventually become U.S. citizens.
It is no surprise that President Biden is acting swiftly to protect DACA. He also signed a memorandum instructing the Department of Homeland Security to do everything possible to protect the DACA program. After all, he helped the Obama Administration’s create the DACA program. We are hopeful that Congress will enact legislation to offer a path to citizenship to Dreamers, which is supported by a majority of Americans.
If you have questions about immigration, immigration rights, the DACA program, or our legal services, give us a call at (407) 818-1244. Our lawyers speak English, Spanish, and Portuguese. With an office based in Orlando, Florida, we help people all over the world. We love what we do, and we would love to help you achieve your American Dream. You can also email us at email@example.com.