In September, a federal judge ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is illegal. This has raised several questions about the future of the DACA program, as well as what will happen to those who have already received Deferred Action status.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a program that the U.S. government created to provide temporary relief to certain undocumented immigrants. It allows those who have been granted Deferred Action status to remain in the United States without fear of deportation for up to two years. The temporary program included the option of a renewal.
Following that decision, the USCIS is still accepting new DACA application requests and accompanying applications for employment authorization, but it is not able to process them.
For those who have already been accepted, the USCIS is continuing to accept and process renewal requests and accompanying applications for employment authorization. This means that those who are already in the program, more than 825,000 DACA recipients still have the protections offered by DACA.
What are the benefits of DACA?
- Reduced Risk of Deportation: Once your Deferred Action status has been approved, you will not be deported as long as you remain eligible.
- Work Permit: With Deferred Action status, you can apply for a work permit, which can open job options.
- Access to Educational Opportunities: You may be eligible for in-state tuition rates, scholarships, and financial aid.
- Social Security Number: DACA recipients can obtain a Social Security Number, making it easier to open bank accounts, establish credit, and access various financial services.
Who is eligible for DACA?
As it was created, there are several eligibility requirements for obtaining Deferred Action status including:
- Entrance to the United States as a child. To be eligible, you typically must have been under age 16 when you entered the country and have been born on or after June 16, 1981
- Continuous residence: Applicants must have been a resident in the United States since June 15, 2012 through the time of their request for DACA status.
- A clean criminal record: this means no felonies or significant misdemeanors. Certain minor offenses may be acceptable.
- Education or military service: this is not a requirement, but this can be a positive factor in a DACA application.
What does the ruling mean for the future of the program?
The ruling that the DACA program is unlawful does not immediately affect those who have been granted Deferred Action status. They still have the protections offered by the program and can apply for renewal.
Because of potential processing delays, those who need to renew should apply at least six months before the expiration date.
Employers can continue to employ DACA recipients who have valid Employment Authorization Documents. These can be renewed, but they do not qualify for an automatic extension during a pending application.
New applications are currently being accepted, but they can not be processed. Contact immigration Attorney Nancy Norman for help understanding DACA and your rights.