One of the most controversial topics in politics today surrounds the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, more commonly known as DACA. This program was created by President Obama to provide a way for for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to come out of the shadows and apply for temporary authorization to remain in the U.S., and to apply for temporary work permits. At the time, President Obama referred to the program as a temporary measure to give some relief and hope to young individuals who only know home within the United States. The program defers deportation proceedings for two years for any qualifying individual, and also provides work authorization for those approved, with the possibility of renewing approvals. The policy behind the DACA program is the notion that children should not be punished for the sins of their parents. As the United States decides the fate of the 800,000 DACA recipients living in the U.S., it is important to think about what kind of nation we want to be. The fabric of our American existence has always been our status as a nation of immigrants. As we face this cross-road in the American experience, it will require an in-depth analysis of who we are and who we want to be on the global stage. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, what kind of America do we want?
Last week, the Trump Administration outlined its immigration framework, which includes: (1) $25 billion to fund a border wall system and increased personnel; (2) limit legal family-based immigration to the nuclear family, thereby eliminating sponsorship of parents, siblings and adult children of U.S. Citizens; (3) Eliminate the Visa Lottery program that allows citizens of underrepresented countries to obtain permanent resident status through a lottery system.
The question that is yet to be seen is how much compromise will be tolerated to free the dreamers and provide them with a longer-term legal status. Will both sides of the debate give in to the $25 billion price tag for the border wall and the re-framing of our family-based immigration system, thereby slashing legal immigration by half? This will be no easy battle to be sure.
Background/Qualifications for DACA
To qualify for DACA, applicants must:
- Have been between the ages of 15 and 31 on the program’s start date – June 15, 2012
- Have been under the age of 16 when they were first brought to the United States
- Have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007 – five years before the start of the program
- Reside in the United States at the time of application
- Be either a high school student or graduate, and/or have been honorably discharged from the military
- Have never been convicted of a felony, of a significant misdemeanor, or of three or more misdemeanors, no matter how minor
- Not pose a threat to national security or public safety
- Not have had lawful status when the program began on June 15, 2012
To apply for DACA, qualified applicants must submit a completed application, as well as the application fee of $495. As of September 5, 2017, no new applications are being accepted, however, pursuant to Federal Court Order, USCIS began accepting application for renewal of DACA authorization until further notice.
Despite common misconception, DACA does not provide a path to citizenship to approved applicants, nor does it give them lawful status. Approved applicants can also have their DACA status revoked at any time, due to any convictions, arrests, or other perceived threats by the Department of Homeland Security.
In light of the current political climate, and threat of the DACA program ending permanently, it is highly encouraged that if you are a DACA recipient up for renewal, you submit your renewal application as soon as possible. If you have questions regarding the DACA program, your eligibility, or how to otherwise protect your status, contact one of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna’s expert immigration attorneys today.