If you came to the United States of America unlawfully as a minor, you might be at risk of deportation. However, things could be different if your immigrant parents or guardians arrived in the country before the age of 16. In that case, you might be protected from removal proceedings by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
The policy was effected through an executive order by then-President Barrack Obama on June 15, 2012. If you are among the immigrants who came to the United States as children, and you meet other key eligibility requirements, you may receive the following:
- Employment authorization by filing Form I-765
- Driver’s licenses
- Social security number for a renewable two-year term
Deferred Action Explained
This is a prosecutorial order that protects undocumented immigrants from deportation for some time if they immigrated to the U.S. illegally.
Depending on the circumstances that led to your arrival into the U.S., you can apply for DACA to continue residing here legally. For instance, international students who arrived in the United States after the effects of Hurricane Katrina can be protected from deportation.
If war and genocide in your country led you to settle in the U.S., you are also eligible for DACA. Therefore, DACA is one of the various deferred actions documented immigrants may seek to halt their deportation.
What Is DACA?
If you’re still asking yourself the above question, read on for additional details.
As an unlawful child immigrant living in the United States, DACA grants you the privilege to work (a work permit), live legally for a specific period, enjoy social security services, and own a driver’s license in the country.
Can I Get Lawful Status Through DACA?
No, you cannot. If your request for consideration of deferred action is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), that does not mean you are a lawful resident. The childhood arrival action only protects you from being returned to your native country.
Similarly, you cannot apply for U.S. citizenship, which means you don’t enjoy privileges reserved for U.S. nationals, such as voting.
Is Every Child Immigrant Eligible For DACA In The United States?
Not really. When former President Trump took office, he ordered the U.S. government to stop taking new DACA requests. He also reduced the validity of DACA to one year from the previous two years. Also, the USCIS halted the Advance Parole process for DACA recipients.
The new rules transformed the DACA application process; however, in June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court revoked the orders from the Trump administration and ruled that from December 4, 2020, DACA be reinstated.
Eligibility Requirements For DACA Recipients
There are specific requirements to be eligible for DACA. Let’s take a quick look:
You may apply to be eligible for DACA in the U.S. if :
• You were 31 years and below as of June 15, 2012,
• You migrated to the U.S. when you were under the age of 16 years,
• You have not traveled out of the United States since June 15, 2007, until now,
• You do not have a lawful status since June 15, 2012, and if you had, it has expired at the time of your application,
• You were living in the U.S. when President Obama ended the deportation of illegal migrants who came as minors, that is, June 15, 2012,
• You have graduated from school, are currently enrolled in school, or you have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or Coast Guard of the United States,
• Your criminal record is clean, and if you have been convicted in less that three minor felonies. Your prior crimes must not pose a threat to national security or public safety,
However, it is worth noting that if you are currently in school and you receive DACA, and then drop out later, you risk being denied renewal.
Lawful Status Explained
You are in a lawful status if you are a U.S. citizen either through birth or naturalization. Also, if you are a foreigner granted a permanent or temporary stay in the US, for example, a green card holder, you have lawful status. If the US government has granted you legal asylum, you are also in the country legally. Therefore, DACA does not confer a lawful status to a childhood immigrant.
Difference Between DACA And The DREAM Act
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, you are a DREAMer if your parent or guardian brought you to the United States as a minor before your 16th birthday. The DREAM Act sought to introduce a permanent law that protected young people from facing deportation. However, the United States Senate rejected this bill.
In line with this bill’s failure, President Obama gave an executive order to protect childhood immigrants from deportation. The order, known as DACA, prevented the DHS from initiating removal proceedings against people who came to the United States as minors below age 16.
The executive order offers you a temporary legal presence in the U.S., but you must renew it before expiry. Failure to renew DACA could mean that you are a possible target for deportation.
Can The U.S. Government Revoke My DACA Before Expiry Period?
Absolutely. The government can terminate your DACA permit if :
• You are convicted of a felony eligible for a one-year sentence or more,
• You used false information and documents to acquire DACA from the United States government.
DACA Validity Period
Initially, your work authorization permit under DACA expired after two years. When the Trump administration gave the new orders, the validity period was reduced to one year as of July 28, 2020.
When To Renew Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals
The USCIS recommends the renewal of DACA permits 120 to 150 days before the expiry date. If your permit is expired, you may need to consult an immigration attorney for further advice.
Requirements For Successful Renewal
If your renewal is rejected, your stay in the U.S. is considered illegal, and you risk deportation. To avoid rejected renewal requests from DACA, applicants must ensure:
• They do not leave the U.S. without valid travel parole from the USCIS,
• They must be physically present in the United States since the last DACA approval,
• They are not convicted of a crime that could lead to more than one year in jail.
What Kind Of Felonies Could Warrant Termination Or Rejection Of My DACA Renewal Application?
DACA recipients are not entirely safe from deportation. If you are a beneficiary of the DACA program, the following crimes could warrant termination of your permit or rejected renewal requests.
• Use and sale of controlled substances such as heroin and cocaine,
• Firearm offenses including the purchase, sale, and use of firearms or destructive devices,
• Terrorist activities such as participation in genocide, violations of human rights, and recruitment of child soldiers,
• Voting in federal, state, and local elections, a privilege only reserved for U.S. citizens,
• Violation of national security laws such as export laws, sharing information, and treason,
• Aggravated crimes of robbery, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, and murder,
• Use of false documents to acquire a deferred action for children immigrants or other USCIS services.
What Felonies Pass As Misdemeanors When Applying For DACA?
A misdemeanor is a crime considered to be small and does not attract harsh penalties. Your participation in such crimes may go unnoticed in your DACA application. However, it does not mean you can get away with it.
These misdemeanors include:
• Careless driving,
• Possession of cannabis for personal use,
• Petty theft such as shoplifting,
• Simple assault.
What Is The Current State Of DACA Application In The US?
Following a Supreme Court order to block the Trump administration’s attempt to cancel the DACA program, USCIS and DHS are working together to ensure your initial application request and renewal are considered.
After blocking the Trump administration order, the Supreme Court order mandated the USCIS to do the following as from December 7, 2020:
• Review your application even if you are applying for DACA for the first time,
• Accept renewal requests from DACA recipients for permits that are almost expiring,
• Receive Advance Parole requests from DACA recipients,
• Reinstate the expiry period for DACA to 2 years from the current one-year period,
• Extend employment authorization document for DACA recipients to a period of two years.
However, before applying or renewing your DACA, seek an immigration lawyer’s advice to be sure.
Advance Parole For DACA Recipients
When you hold a work permit or legal presence in the United States courtesy of DACA, you can apply for permission to leave the country briefly for business, studies, or leisure. The process of applying for the travel permit is known as Advance Parole.
If you travel outside the United States without the travel parole, it could be grounds for termination of permit or rejection of renewal for your DACA.
Does DACA Guarantee Protection From Deportation?
To begin with, let’s define these two terms:
CBP (Customs and Border Protection)
The U.S. agency in charge of border control. It enforces all immigration policies set by the U.S. government.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
This U.S. federal agency, under the Department of Homeland Security, protects the country from illegal immigration and unlawful passage of goods and resources into the United States.
Assuming you are held in detention at any of the above agencies, and you are confident that you qualify for legal status or DACA, you may request a chance to speak to an immigration lawyer.
Given that the issue of deferred action is quite complex, it is always a great idea to involve an immigration attorney before submitting your application. The immigration lawyer should be able to review your application, evaluate your situation, and identify the best way to proceed.