Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would offer many DREAM Act-eligible youths protection from deportation. These youths can now apply for “deferred action for childhood arrivals” (DACA), which temporarily shields them from deportation and enables them to live and work legally in the US.
What DACA involves
DACA is a form of protection that lasts two years. Anyone who gets DACA would be able to get it renewed, but she would need to reapply near the end of the two years and have her case reviewed again. Youths applying for DACA are also applying for work permits. Those who receive DACA can also apply for permission to travel outside the US. DACA does NOT put someone on track to get a green card or US citizenship.
To qualify for DACA, youths must meet all of these eight requirements:
- They must be at least 15 years old (unless they are in deportation proceedings, in which case they go through a different process through ICE);
- They must have been born after June 15, 1981;
- They must have come to the US before they turned 16;
- They must have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007;
- They must have been present in the US on June 15, 2012;
- They must have been out of status on June 15, 2012;
- They must currently be in school, have received a high school diploma or GED, or been honorably discharged from the US Armed Forces or the Coast Guard;
- They must not have been convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor,” or three or misdemeanor offenses (not counting minor traffic offenses), or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
How the process works
Applicants must submit three forms: the I-821D DACA application, the I-765 application for employment authorization, and the I-765WS worksheet. The application fee is $465. The applicant must also submit two passport-style photos as well as supporting documents to prove that she satisfies all of the requirements for DACA.
Applicants will be scheduled for a biometric (fingerprinting) appointment to gather information for a criminal background check. USCIS will then review the application and other information and issue a decision. USCIS has anticipated a processing time of 5-6 months, but has been approving cases much more quickly.
Who should get legal help
Youths whose cases involve any of the following issues should definitely consult with an immigration lawyer or authorized non-profit immigration service organization before they apply:
- criminal history or gang involvement
- prior encounters with immigration officers or immigration court
- travel outside the United States since first arriving in this country
Also, certain youths might qualify for other immigration benefits that can put them on track to get green cards, including those who
- have been victims of crime or domestic violence
- have applied or been included in a close relative’s application for immigration status
- have a parent, spouse, or child who is a US citizen or permanent resident.
These youths should also seek qualified legal help before they apply.
Lists of trustworthy not-for-profit agencies and lawyers who can offer immigration help are available at www.DREAMRelief.org. Do NOT believe any notarios or anyone else who is not authorized to practice law who says they can help with an application.
What happens if an application is denied?
DHS is not allowing appeals for denied applications. Under its current guidance, however, USCIS will refer a denied applicant for deportation only if she has a criminal conviction or fraud in the application.
The work that remains
We still need to push for the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform. DACA is only temporary and can change at any time. DACA also does not put anyone on track for a green card or citizenship. We need to change our laws so that DREAM youths and their families can become fully contributing members of our community.
For more information on DACA or the DREAM Act, including dates for application workshops and information sessions, please visit www.DREAMRelief.org or call our Family Support Hotline – 1-855-HELP-MY-FAMILY
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- If you would like to help DREAMers apply for DACA, or work with our Family Support Network to stop deportations, please contact Carrie Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 312-332-7360, ext. 247.
- If you would like to work with school to organize immigrant students who can benefit from DACA, please contact Cindy Agustin at email@example.com, or 312-332-7360, ext. 251.
- If you would like to register and turn out voters in your neighborhood, please send your name and address to Abdelnasser Rashid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 DHS is defining “significant misdemeanor” as any offense that
- Regardless of the sentence imposed, is an offense of domestic violence; sexual abuse or exploitation; burglary; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; drug distribution or trafficking; or, driving under the influence; or,
- If not an offense listed above, is one for which the individual was sentenced to time in custody of more than 90 days. The sentence must involve time to be served in custody, and therefore does not include a suspended sentence.