Immigration Program Explodes After Obama Re-election
Now that President Barack Obama has been reelected, even more young immigrants are applying for reprieve under his administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That’s because Obama and other Democrats have made it an important policy to give a break to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney had vowed to kill the program, according to recent reports. Over 53,000 immigrants have been approved to stay in the United States another two years, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Applications Judged Case-by-Case
The DACA program, which is run by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was launched on June 15, 2012. The program allows immigrants to get work permits, driver’s licenses in some states, and a general reprieve from the threat of deportation for two years.
One must apply for the program, and USCIS is careful to point out that the decision of whether to grant deferred action is “discretionary” and “does not provide an individual with lawful status.”
In order to be eligible to apply, says Asian Pacific American Legal Center spokesperson Rachanee Srisavasdi, an immigrant must meet the following criteria:
- Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Entered the United States before their 16th birthday
- Have continuous residence in the United States since June 15, 2007 until the present
- Have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time of the request to USCIS
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012 or their lawful immigration status had expired as of June 15, 2012
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
Criminal Charges Complicate Applications
Young immigrants without any criminal record have the best chance of successfully entering the program. “If an applicant presents a criminal issue, public safety, or national security threat then the case will be treated as an immigration enforcement priority,” says Srisavasdi.
“In addition, any individual who attempts to obtain the relief through fraud or misrepresentation will also be treated as an immigration enforcement priority,” she adds.
“Where we see the discretion being denied are in cases where people have some criminal issues that do not rise to being ineligible, but are being denied because of the circumstances of the criminal issues,” Srisavasdi explains. “It is very fact-specific.”
Self-Identifying Fears Unfounded
Asked whether immigrants are nervous about self-identifying as undocumented when they apply for the program, Srisavasdi says that “it is not an enforcement program,” noting “this program is intended to provide relief to certain young people who entered the United States as children.”
To immigrants considering applying, she recommends “seeking legal consultation from an experienced immigration attorney, BIA accredited representative, or any of the non-profits providing assistance on DACA before applying.”
“It is important to understand the program, the eligibility criteria, and the documentary evidence needed to successfully obtain an approval,” says Srisavasdi. “Moreover, it is important for young people to have the support they need to pursue this program.”
She says her organization and many others that work with undocumented immigrants “are hopeful that comprehensive immigration reform can be passed that will provide a permanent pathway to residency and citizenship.”
“Many young people have degrees that they are not being able to utilize because they do not have employment authorization,” she adds.
If you need to speak to an immigration attorney about your status or application to the DACA program, contact one on Lawyers.com.