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Federal Government Allows Extension of DACA Status, Amid Efforts to Roll Back the Program

Dreamers_AZ_Sit-in_5-17-10.jpgIn June 2012, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows qualifying undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation and obtain work authorization for at least two years. DHS announced that it would begin accepting applications to renew DACA status in June 2014, since the earliest approved DACA cases were nearing expiration. The program has benefited hundreds of thousands of young people known as DREAMers, after the DREAM Act that would have made the provisions of DACA into law has failed to pass in Congress. Critics of DACA include most Republicans in Congress, who recently voted to end the DACA program entirely. The bill has little chance of passing in the Senate, however, and President Obama would be unlikely to sign such a bill.

DACA was created by an executive order issued by the President. It is essentially a means of setting priorities for the enforcement of immigration laws, a process known as “prosecutorial discretion.” The focus is on undocumented immigrants with criminal records and those who pose a threat to national security, instead of those who came to the U.S. as children and have contributed positively to society. Contrary to what many critics of the program claim, DACA does not modify DREAMers’ immigration status. They remain officially undocumented, but DACA approval means that DHS agrees not to pursue removal action against them as long as they maintain that approval.

As of June 15, 2012, individuals who may qualify for DACA were under the age of 31, had no lawful immigration status, and were physically present in the U.S. They must have arrived in the U.S. before their sixteenth birthdays and have resided in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007. They must not have any felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, fewer than three minor misdemeanor convictions, and no concerns regarding national security. Finally, they must be enrolled in school and have a high school diploma or GED, or an honorable discharge from the United States Armed Forces.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of DHS, began accepting DACA renewal applications on June 1, 2014, and it continues to accept new DACA applications. Both new applications and renewals require payment of a $465 fee to USCIS. Over 560,000 people have reportedly received DACA approval since 2012, which represents between 41 and 55 percent of the estimated total number of eligible individuals.

Critics of DACA have made many claims about the program, including that it is responsible for the massive influx of Central American refugees seeking to enter the U.S. from Mexico. This criticism ignores the requirement of continuous presence in the U.S. beginning on at least June 15, 2007, along with the requirements of school enrollment or U.S. military service. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on August 1, 2014, H.R. 5272, that would prohibit federal spending on DACA. It was received in the Senate on August 5, but it is unlikely to make it far.

Immigration lawyer Samuel C. Berger represents individuals, families, and businesses in the New York and New Jersey areas. We assist people who wish to immigrate to this region, family members who want to bring a loved one to the U.S., and employers who want to hire talent from abroad. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how our legal team can help you with your immigration matter, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

How Immigration Laws Regarding Refugees and Asylum Relate to the Situation at the U.S.-Mexico Border, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 9, 2014
New Jersey Governor Signs Bill Based on DREAM Act Allowing Certain Undocumented Immigrants to Pay In-State Tuition at Public Universities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 22, 2014
Resources Abound to Help People Determine Their Eligibility for DACA, Including a new Mobile App, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, October 17, 2013
Photo credit: By Dreamer movement (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.