With today, August 15th, 2017, being the day of action for #DefendDACA, we thought it appropriate to have a post explaining a little more about DACA and what is currently happening. Let’s dive in.
What is DACA?
DACA is something we all think we know about, but do we? DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a type of administrative relief from deportation that expires every two years. According to Julissa Arce on Pod Save America, it is a program that allows young undocumented people to work by giving them a work permit and it protects them from being deported. One of the most important aspects of DACA is the only reason it came to be was due to people having the courage to come out and tell their stories. Through doing this, many people faced the risk of deportation or exposing their lives and making themselves vulnerable.
To gain DACA status, these young people need to undergo intensive background checks, finger printing and provide extensive information to government so the government knows who you are and what you are doing. The requirements to qualify for DACA are as follows:
You need documents that prove every part of the requirements above and have to apply for renewal at least 150 days before your current two year long DACA status expires.
What can Happen After an Application?
If you are approved for DACA status, you essentially have access to “live the American dream” aka live and work without fear of deportation. You can build a life for yourself. Work on advancing yourself professionally (pursue higher education, start a business, etc.), continue meaningful relationships, buy a house, buy a car, pay taxes – become a part of your community.
Immigration Equality states that individuals should only apply after consulting with a qualified attorney because there are many moving parts to these applications. If an individual is here unlawfully and USCIS or ICE finds they do not meet the criteria for deferred action, they may be placed in removal proceedings (get deported). Additionally, even if individuals are granted deferred action, the status is completely discretionary and can be revoked in the future. In lieu of the immigration ban, many people who have an approved advanced parole (legally allowed to leave the country and come back under DACA) are being encouraged to not leave the country incase something happens while they’re away and they cannot get back in.
Nearly 800,000 people have chosen to apply for and have received DACA. Currently, Immigration Equality does not recommend that you file for DACA if you have never done so before, but does recommend you apply for renewal. If DACA does get terminated, filling out the paperwork to apply does legally declare you as undocumented and puts you on a list that could potentially get you deported.
What is Happening with DACA Right Now?
Two different things: (1) the possibility that the Texas v. U.S. court case may be amended to challenge DACA, and (2) the possibility that the Supreme Court may hear the ADAC court case and make a ruling on DACA’s constitutionality.
What is Texas v US?
Texas v Us is a United States Supreme Court case regarding the constitutionality of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program which would have deferred the deportation of the undocumented parents of citizens or lawful permanent residents. Because the Supreme Court had a tied vote, their decision effectively blocked President Barack Obama’s executive actions for instituting DAPA from taking effect. This year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (along with officials from nine other states) wrote Jeff Sessions a letter stating: “If, by September 5, 2017, the Executive Branch agrees to rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and not to renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future, then the plaintiffs that successfully challenged DAPA and Expanded DACA will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit currently pending in the Southern District of Texas. Otherwise, the complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits.” September 5th is in three weeks.
What is the ADAC Court Case?
The ADAC (Arizona Dream Act Coalition) is an immigrant youth-led organization focusing on the fight for higher education and immigrant rights. The lawsuit in the Brewer v. ADAC was originally brought by civil rights groups due to Arizona changing state policy to deny issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants under DACA status. The Supreme Court asked the solicitor general to weigh in on this case and once the general submits a briefing the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to take the case. The Ninth Circuit’s decision will permanently block Arizona’s driver’s license ban if the Court decides not to take the case and remain the final word. However, if the Court decides to take the case, the case will then move forward and be heard by the Court in accordance to its regular procedures which could end up having the Court make a ruling on DACA’s constitutionality.
There are a few different possibilities people see for the future of the program:
- The Trump administration may decide not to terminate the DACA program. You would then have work authorization and be protected from deportation.
- The DACA program may be terminated, but people who already have DACA may still have work authorization and be protected from deportation until their DACA and work permit expire.
- The Trump administration may decide to stop accepting first-time applications for DACA but continue to allow people who already have DACA to renew it.
- Legislation such as the BRIDGE Act could be enacted that would make people who have DACA automatically eligible for work authorization and protection from deportation
The current USCIS policy is it does not share the information about DACA applicants or their family members with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigration enforcement purposes unless there are serious criminal, fraud, or national security issues with the case. People with DACA generally are considered “low priorities” for deportation, based on how long they’ve lived in the U.S., their ties to the U.S., and their not having committed serious crimes, which is why they were granted DACA in the first place.
What About What’s Happening With Legislation?
There are a few different things happening with legislation surrounding DACA currently. There are five prominent bills to take note of: the DREAM Act, the RAC Act the BRIDGE Act, the HOPE Act and the RAISE Act.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) – is a multi-phase process for undocumented minors in the United States who graduated high school by first granting conditional residency and upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency. This bill was originally proposed in 2001, but still has not been passed.
The BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) – is a bipartisan effort to codify the protections afforded by DACA and would provide temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to undocumented youth.
The RAC Act (Recognizing America’s Children) – creates a rigorous process to protect Dreamers who consistently contribute positively to the American economy and society by working, studying or serving in the military. The bill provides five years of conditional legal status if applicants came to the U.S. before 2012 and were under the age of 16, and are “contributing positively”, after five years they can adjust their status to permanent residency provided they meet certain strict requirements and after ten years they can adjust to citizenship.
The HOPE Act (American Hope) – provides the legislative solutions to permanently protect young undocumented immigrants regardless of educational level, military service or work history through creating a three-step path to citizenship.
- STAGE 1 Apply for CPR status, valid for a total of 8 years.
- STAGE 2 After 3 years with CPR, a person may apply for LPR status if they: have not abandoned their residence in the U.S., have not committed certain criminal offenses, pass a background check.
- DACA recipients may apply the time they have had DACA toward the 3- years-with-CPR requirement.
- STAGE 3 – May apply for U.S. citizenship after 5 years in permanent resident (CPR (3-8 years) LPR (2+ years)) status. Time in CPR status will count toward 5-year permanent residence requirement for naturalization. Eligible for citizenship (total of at least 5 years)
The RAISE Act (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment) – Although not directly tied to DACA, this is a “merit based” bill that would screen visa applicants using a point system based off of factors like age, education, English ability, job offer salary, investments – even whether the person has an Olympic medal. Not only would it limit the qualifications of immigration, but the bill would would essentially cut in half legal immigration to the US(from about 1 million people per year to a little over 500,000) and number of refugees allowed (110,000 to 50,000). The bill would also eliminate the diversity visa program, eliminate spots for adult children and siblings of US citizens or parents of US citizens.
What are your thoughts and feelings about DACA and where it should be heading in the US? If you are interested in taking part in #DefendDACA, visit Defend DACA.com to find out how you can contribute today.