August 7, 2012
On June 15, 2012, President Obama made the spectacular announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be implementing a new program designed to help undocumented individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age. On August 3, 2012, the DHS released the process and procedures that applicants must take in order to apply for the benefits under the program, which has been named “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). The DHS will begin accepting DACA applications starting Wednesday, August 15, 2012.
The DACA program is intended to ease the burdens of undocumented immigrants who entered the United States while they were youths. An individual who is granted Deferred Action will have the peace of mind that the DHS will not seek to remove them from the United States. An approval of Deferred Action will also allow an individual the ability to obtain a work permit. With a work permit, an individual can then obtain a social security number and drivers license. Rather than hiding in the shadows and not contributing to the society that has educated them, the DACA program will at least assist individuals with establishing a more normal life and the freedom to pursue their dreams.
The following are the criteria for DACA eligibility: 1) Under age 31 on 06/15/2012; 2) Entered US before age 16; 3) Continuously resided in the US from at least 06/15/2007 to the present; 4) Physically present in US on 06/15/2012 and at time of submitting the DACA application; 5) Entered without inspection before 06/15/2012 or no longer in a valid immigration status on 06/15/2012; 6) Currently in school; have graduated from a US high school; have obtained a GED certificate; or honorably discharged from the US military; 7) Must not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor offense, or 3 or more misdemeanor offenses; and 8) If the individual has no final order of removal or pending removal case, be at least 15 years.
To establish the residency requirements, the DHS will consider any credible documents, including but not limited to the following: financial records; medical records; school records; employment records; and military records.
With respect to what constitutes a "significant misdemeanor offense", the DHS states that it includes misdemeanor crimes that involve violence, threats, or assault, including domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary, larceny, or fraud; obstruction of justice or bribery; unlawful flight from arrest, prosecution, or the scene of an accident; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; or drug distribution or trafficking. Also included is driving under the influence (DUI) and unlawful possession of drugs, both of which are crimes that many view as not significant and therefore unwittingly plead guilty thinking it will not harm them.
On August 15, 2012, the DHS will release the DACA application form. Individuals may start submitting the DACA application, along with the application for a work permit and the $465 filing fees, to the DHS on August 15. Once submitted, individuals will be scheduled for biometric background checks.
For individuals granted Deferred Action, it will provide them with the assurance that the DHS will not seek to remove them from the US during the 2-year validity period. As indicated, they will also obtain a work permit during the 2-year validity period. At that point, individuals may also apply for an advance parole document in order to travel in and out of the US.
An individual seeking DACA benefits must ensure that they properly prepare their application, as the DHS will not allow any motions to reopen, motions to reconsider, or appeals.
The DACA program is certainly a bright light in what has been such a struggle for so many. As the DACA program does not lead toward permanent residency, however, a tremendous amount of work and advocacy still lays ahead to ensure that the dreams of innocent youths is not just a temporary one. It is vital that individuals take advantage of this golden opportunity, but not lose sight that a permanent remedy is still needed and that advocacy for it must continue throughout this election year and beyond.