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What Is DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

Understanding the complexities of immigration law can be overwhelming and challenging. Some rules apply differently from one case over the other. Perhaps you're a "dreamer" trying to make it through life in the United States for the first time. Or you are a parent wanting a better future for your children. Whichever the case, various resources could help you understand your case. This article by FindLaw will give an overview of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the legal challenges its recipients face.

What Is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

"Deferred action" is prosecutorial discretion exercised by the DHS. With this, they could postpone the deportation or removal proceedings against a person for a certain period. Although DACA doesn't grant legal status in the United States, it gives recipients the authority to work or study for a specific period.

The Secretary of Homeland Security announced on June 15, 2012, that people who arrived in the United States as minors and have met specific guidelines may ask for consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The consideration is effective for two years and is subject to renewal. DACA recipients may also ask for employment authorization during their period of stay.

DACA is commonly associated with the DREAM Act, a legislation that protects DACA recipients from deportation. They also get conditional permanent resident status, valid for up to eight years. This conditional legal status will allow them to get work permits in the U.S. and travel in and out of the country.

Legal Challenges to DACA Recipients

In light of an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Jan. 9, 2018, and bolstered by succeeding federal court orders, the future of the Donald Trump administration's ending of the DACA program is uncertain. But much has happened since 2018.

On Sept. 13, 2023, the Southern District of Texas U.S. District Court found the DACA Final Rule unlawful. But, the ruling does not force the U.S. government to act against current recipients, as it remains valid until it expires. The USCIS will continue to process renewal requests of DACA recipients. It will continue recognizing related employment authorization and advance parole as valid under the final order.

But, it bars the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from approving new DACA applications.

DACA Eligibility Requirements

Immigrants who entered the U.S. as children without proper documentation are eligible for deferred action if they meet the following requirements:

  • You are under the age of 31 (as of June 15, 2012)
  • You entered the U.S. before your 16th birthday
  • You have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007 (and up to the present)
  • You were in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time you requested your DACA application
  • You entered illegally (or lawful immigration status expired) before June 15, 2012
  • You are in school, have graduated, or have a certificate of high school completion or general education development (GED) certificate. Or were honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces (or Coast Guard)
  • You are not a threat to national security
  • You were not convicted of a felony offense, significant misdemeanor, or three misdemeanors

It is up to each applicant to provide more information and evidence of their eligibility. For example, if you don't have a passport, you may show any U.S. government document bearing your photo and name as proof of identity.

What Benefits Do DACA Recipients Get?

Getting DACA does not directly lead to a green card or naturalization. But it provides various benefits to its recipients, which include:

  1. Temporary relief from deportation or removal for up to two years on issuance of initial DACA request
  2. Opportunity to get work authorization
  3. Opportunity to enroll in an academic institution in the United States
  4. Ability to renew DACA status every two years

How Do I Apply for DACA?

To apply for an initial DACA request, you should submit Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Form I-821D) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The following are the steps written down in detail:

  1. Complete and sign the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals form
  2. Include the required filing fee of $85
  3. Fill out Form 8-21D, submit Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, the required Form I-765 filing fee, and Form I-765WS, Worksheet (PDF), establishing your economic need for employment.
  4. File the completed forms, evidence of eligibility, and fee payment at a USCIS Lockbox facility
  5. The USCIS will review your application and look at the completeness of the documents submitted.
  6. The USCIS will send a biometrics appointment notice if your DACA application is complete
  7. Attend the biometrics appointment

Remember that if you fail to file the Employment Authorization Document with the worksheet and filing fees, the USCIS will not consider your DACA request.

The USCIS will review your initial DACA request after it receives your application. It will look at the completeness of the application, the submission of required fees, initial evidence, and other supporting documents. Afterward, it will send you a receipt notice if it determines your DACA request is complete. USCIS will also send you an appointment notice if you need to visit an Application Support Center (ASC) for biometrics services. You must attend your biometrics appointment. Please attend the appointment so they can process your DACA request on time. The USCIS could also deny your request.

With the current orders, the DHS cannot grant initial DACA requests now. For more updates, please visit the USCIS website or consult an immigration attorney near you.

Fee Exemptions

There are minimal fee exemptions available for DACA recipients. You must get your fee exemption request favorably adjudicated and filed before you file the DACA request without the required fee. For fee exemption consideration, submit a letter and documentation to the USCIS. These documents should show proof that you meet one of the following:

  1. You cannot care for yourself due to a severe and chronic disability, and your income falls below 150% of the U.S. poverty level.
  2. Twelve months since the DACA request, you have $10,000 or more in debt. The debt should result from unreimbursed medical expenses incurred for you or your family member. Also, your income should fall below 150% of the U.S. poverty level.
  3. You are under 18 years old, and your income is below 150% of the U.S. poverty level. Also, you are in foster care, homeless, or lack parental or familial support.

Seek Legal Advice. Talk to an Immigration Attorney

U.S. immigration laws and policies often undergo changes and amendments. These changes could directly affect your immigration status. So, staying informed and understanding your rights is essential amid evolving immigration policies.

For those with questions about their DACA status or are looking for DACA renewal, it is best to seek legal advice from an immigration attorney. They can guide you through understanding immigration and federal laws that apply to your case. With their expertise, they can give invaluable help. You can navigate this complex system with help. Talk to an immigration attorney for guidance and questions about the latest updates.

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