Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a U.S. immigration policy that allows protection from deportation and eligibility for a work permit to those individuals that came to the U.S. as a minor, and had entered and remained in the U.S. illegally. This deferred action of deportation is good for a 2 year period and can be renewed.
The DREAM Act, first introduced in 2001, was a bill that was aimed at giving legal status to young immigrants who were brought here by their parents illegally. Several attempts were made in the House and Senate over the next decade to introduce similar “Dreamer” bills, and all failed to pass.
Frustrated with Congress’ failed efforts on legislation for Dreamers, on June 15, 2012, President Obama announced his policy to delay deportation and grant work permits to eligible immigrants for 2 year periods, renewable upon good behavior. According to this new policy, individuals are eligible if they:
- Came to the U.S. before they turned 16 years old
- Live in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
- Under the age of 31
- Currently, in school, have graduated high school or equivalent, or were honorably discharged in the military
- Never convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanors, or 3 or more misdemeanors and do not pose a threat to national security
A formal memorandum was sent to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, instructing the law enforcement agencies to use discretion with individuals who met this criterion. Individuals who wanted the protection of DACA needed to submit all necessary applications with documentation of proof of eligibility and pay a fee of $495.
On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA program is being repealed. He stated that DACA renewals could continue to be submitted up until October 5, 2017. But President Trump followed up this statement saying it was now time for Congress to act, and that DACA recipients should “use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”
However, in January 2018, a federal judge in California ordered the administration to resume processing DACA renewals while the lawsuit filed against the repeal of DACA moves forward. The USCIS stated after this decision that it is once again accepting applications for renewals of DACA for those whose DACA status has expired or will soon expire. It will not, however, accept new applications for DACA status. Meaning, if a Dreamer had never applied for DACA status, they were not able to do so at this time.
Currently, President Trump has stated his hopes that lawmakers can pass new legislation for Dreamers to stay in the country, but it needs to include funding for a border wall and more enforcement officers. Democrats want a clean “DREAM” Act that focuses on a path to citizenship for Dreamers, with no other policies tied to it. Republicans have stated that they need more concessions from the Democrats, such as the restructuring of the current visa distribution program to approve visas for merit over family ties. As of now, unless Congress passes legislation by March 5, 2018, the Dreamers are at risk of deportation once their current DACA status expires, if the court injunction is not upheld.
At Davis & Associates, we are your Houston immigration attorneys when you are in need. As one of the top Immigration law firms in Houston, we understand all the complexities of DACA and the recent changes from this administration, and how they may affect you as an immigrant. If you are worried about how these latest decisions can affect you or your family, please call our offices for a consultation with one of our Houston DACA attorneys.