The issue of immigrants coming to the U.S. illegally (meaning without passing through an immigration process) has baffled the federal government for over a century. The question seemed to be whether undocumented immigrants should be expelled or extended an olive branch. In 2012, the Obama administration did the latter through an action known as DACA.
What is DACA and What Are the Benefits?
DACA is an acronym standing for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This policy serves to protect some undocumented immigrants from being deported for two years following enrollment. As of 2017, over 800,000 applicants had enrolled in the program.
DACA was created due to the fact that many currently undocumented immigrants came to the U.S. illegally as children through their parents. Because they were too young to have a say in whether they went through the appropriate immigration process, there are many who believe that deporting these immigrants would be unethical.
Those that support DACA note that many of these children don’t remember living in their native country and consider the U.S. to be their home. Some have even forgotten their native language. Forcibly returning them to their home country would essentially be ruining their lives through no fault of their own.
On the other hand, those that oppose DACA see it as an open invitation for more minors to come to the U.S. illegally and take advantage of the immigration system. In fact, many studies show a rise in unaccompanied minors crossing the border through cartels called “coyotes” set up specifically to abuse DACA.
If you are qualified, one of the main DACA benefits is that any action to remove the applicant from the U.S. will be deferred for two years and the applicant will be able to apply for Employment Authorization Documents to work during this interim. There was even an expansion of the DACA benefits in the works that would extend the offer to parents and also provide a path to permanent residency.
The states were split on the issue and are still divided today. 26 of the states consider DACA to be unconstitutional and outside of the president’s power and authority. These states have blocked the expansions from going through by suing the federal government. The states that do support DACA have installed policies that make it easier for enrolled candidates to live and work in their borders.
What are the Requirements?
To qualify for the DACA program, eligible applicants must:
- have entered the U.S. before turning 16 years old
- have been younger than 31 years old on June 15, 2012
- have a high school diploma, GED, be currently in school, or show that they received an honorable discharge from the armed forces.
- have resided within the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
- not be under any visa, asylum, or refugee status, meaning that they must be undocumented immigrants.
If the applicant was qualified, he or she needed to file an I-821D form for the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and pay the non-negotiable $495 fee.
How Did DACA Renewal Work?
At the end of the two-year period, the DACA benefits recipient would have had the opportunity to apply for a DACA renewal provided that he or she still fulfills the above requirements and has not done anything to violate his or her status.
To renew, one would need the following items:
- A new I-821D form
- An I-765 application for employment authorization
- A copy of both sides of your work permit
- two photos that comply with the passport guidelines
- the $495 filing fee for the I-821D
However, as we’ll see in the next section, the USCIS is no longer accepting DACA renewal requests or initial DACA requests that were filed before September 5, 2017.
Trump Repeals DACA Decision
On September 5th, the Trump administration repealed DACA in a response to a threat from several of the states that oppose the program to sue in an attempt to stop it regardless. The president has charged Congress to find an alternative solution that appeases the opposing states and also provides protection for the undocumented children of illegal immigrants.
With over 800,000 applicants enrolled in the program, these immigrants are now exposed to the threat of deportation. Because a large percentage of the recipients are workers or entrepreneurs, the economy can be expected to shift as more and more people are forced to return to their home country.
What Should I Do If My DACA Will Expire?
You should be able to renew DACA provided that it expires between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. However, if your DACA will expire after March 5, 2018, six months after the repeal, then you will be ineligible to renew your protection. While you will remain protected for as long as your DACA is valid, you will be at risk for deportation as soon as it expires. If this is the case for you, consider exploring your options in the interim.
One likely route to take is to apply for a nonimmigrant visa or a green card (immigrant visa) so that you can remain in the country legally once your DACA expires. This can be based on your family, employment, school, investment or even through certain special circumstances. To understand your qualifications and to choose the best visa for your situation, be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
If you were a DACA recipient who now finds themselves facing deportation upon the expiration of your two-year deferred action, then your situation could be dire. The best course of action is most likely to attempt to apply for a visa to allow you to stay in the country legally. However, doing so without the help of an attorney can be fatal to your case, especially for someone in a delicate immigration position.
Here at SGM Law Group, we aim to help as many people as possible live and work in the U.S. legally. If you are in need of legal assistance, we are here to help. We handle everything from choosing the right visa to filing the petition and corresponding with the USCIS. If you encounter any unexpected obstacles, we’ll be right there to work with you.
If you are interested in getting help with your DACA case, please fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today.