DACA, an acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program in the United States that offers temporary protection from deportation and work authorization to undocumented individuals who arrived in the country as children. Introduced in 2012, DACA has provided opportunities and stability for thousands of young immigrants, allowing them to pursue education, employment, and contribute to their communities. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of the DACA program, its eligibility criteria, benefits, application and renewal process, controversies surrounding it, its impact on recipients, and its relation to immigration reform.
What is DACA?
DACA, an initiative introduced by the Obama administration, is designed to provide temporary relief to individuals who were brought to the United States as children without proper documentation. Under DACA, eligible individuals can receive protection from deportation and obtain work authorization, enabling them to contribute to the American society.
Brief History and Background
The DACA program was established in 2012 to address the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. It aimed to provide a temporary solution until comprehensive immigration reform could be achieved. Since its inception, DACA has undergone various changes and legal challenges, making it essential to understand the current state of the program.
Eligibility for DACA
To be eligible for DACA, applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. They should also have entered the United States before turning 16 years old. These age criteria ensure that the program caters to individuals who were brought to the country as minors.
Arrival in the United States
DACA applicants must have physically been present in the United States on June 15, 2012, without lawful immigration status. Continual residence since June 15, 2007, is also required, demonstrating a long-standing presence and integration into American society.
Applicants are required to be currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or honorably discharged from the armed forces. These educational requirements are necessary to ensure that individuals who benefit from DACA are actively pursuing their education or contributing through military service.
Benefits of DACA
Protection from Deportation
One of the primary benefits of DACA is the protection it provides from deportation. Approved applicants receive deferred action, meaning their removal proceedings are temporarily suspended. This protection offers recipients a sense of security and peace of mind, allowing them to live without constant fear of being separated from their families and communities.
DACA recipients are eligible to receive work authorization, which allows them to legallyseek employment in the United States. With a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD), they can pursue job opportunities, apply for Social Security numbers, and contribute to the economy. This authorization opens doors to various career options and helps recipients support themselves and their families.
Social Security Number
Upon receiving DACA approval, individuals can obtain a Social Security number. This identification enables them to access essential services, such as opening bank accounts, obtaining credit, and participating fully in the financial system. Having a Social Security number provides a sense of inclusion and opportunities for DACA recipients.
Many states in the United States offer driver’s licenses to DACA recipients, allowing them to legally drive and navigate their daily lives with greater ease. A driver’s license is not only a convenience but also a valuable identification document that facilitates interactions with government agencies, employers, and other institutions.
Application Process for DACA
Gathering Necessary Documents
To apply for DACA, individuals must gather and submit various supporting documents. These documents may include proof of identity, evidence of arrival in the United States before the age of 16, documentation of educational background, and any additional requirements outlined by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Filling Out the Application
The DACA application, Form I-821D, requires applicants to provide detailed personal information, including their biographical details, educational history, and current immigration status. It is crucial to complete the application accurately and truthfully, ensuring all information is up to date and supported by relevant documentation.
Submitting the Application
After completing the application, it must be mailed to the appropriate USCIS address, along with the required filing fees. It is essential to follow the USCIS guidelines for submission carefully. Once the application is received, USCIS will review it for eligibility and process the request accordingly.
There are fees associated with filing a DACA application. These fees cover the costs of processing, background checks, and other administrative expenses. It is important to note that fee waivers are not available for DACA applications, so applicants must ensure they have the necessary funds to cover the required fees.
Renewal Process for DACA
Timeframe for Renewal
DACA benefits are not permanent and must be renewed regularly. Recipients can apply to renew their DACA status within six months of the expiration date on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD). To maintain uninterrupted protection and work authorization, it is crucial to submit the renewal application in a timely manner.
When renewing DACA, individuals must provide updated documentation to demonstrate that they continue to meet the program’s eligibility criteria. This may include proof of ongoing education, evidence of continuous residence, and any additional documents required by USCIS.
Filling Out the Renewal Application
The DACA renewal application, Form I-821D, is similar to the initial application but focuses on updating the necessary information and confirming ongoing eligibility. It is crucial to review the application instructions carefully, provide accurate details, and include any required supporting documentation.
Similar to the initial application, there are fees associated with renewing DACA. It is important to submit the appropriate fees with the renewal application to ensure the request is processed promptly. Failure to pay the renewal fees may result in delays or denial of the renewal request.
Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding DACA
DACA has faced legal challenges since its inception, with some opponents arguing that the program oversteps the executive branch’s authority. Court cases and rulings have brought uncertainties and potential changes to the program’s future, emphasizing the need for a legislative solution to address the status of DACA recipients more permanently.
DACA has become a politically debated topic, with varying opinions on immigration policy and the rights of undocumented immigrants. Thesedebates often center around issues such as national security, economic impacts, and the proper balance between compassion and the enforcement of immigration laws. The political landscape plays a significant role in shaping the future of DACA and influencing the lives of those who benefit from the program.
The future of DACA remains uncertain as its legality and long-term existence continue to be debated. Changes in presidential administrations and potential legislative reforms may impact the program’s scope and eligibility criteria. It is crucial for DACA recipients and their supporters to stay informed about policy developments and engage in advocacy efforts to protect the program.
Impact of DACA on Recipients
DACA has opened doors to educational opportunities for recipients. With DACA status, individuals can pursue higher education, access scholarships and financial aid, and attend colleges and universities. This empowerment through education allows DACA recipients to enhance their knowledge and skills, contributing to their personal growth and future prospects.
Employment and Career Prospects
Work authorization granted through DACA enables recipients to secure employment opportunities and contribute to the workforce. With legal status, individuals can pursue career paths aligned with their interests and skills, which not only benefits them personally but also positively impacts the economy and local communities.
DACA recipients make significant economic contributions to the United States. They pay taxes, stimulate consumer spending, and contribute to businesses and industries across various sectors. By granting work authorization, DACA acknowledges the potential and talent of these individuals, allowing them to thrive and contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic growth.
DACA and Immigration Reform
The DACA program has highlighted the need for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. Various legislative efforts have been proposed to provide a more permanent solution for individuals brought to the country as children. These efforts aim to address not only the situation of DACA recipients but also broader immigration issues and create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The DREAM Act
One notable legislative proposal related to DACA is the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship for eligible individuals who arrived in the United States as children. The DREAM Act, if passed, would provide a more stable and long-term solution for DACA recipients, allowing them to fully integrate into American society.
In summary, the DACA program offers temporary protection from deportation and work authorization for undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children. Despite its ongoing legal challenges and political debates, DACA has provided countless opportunities for young immigrants to pursue education, contribute to the economy, and establish roots in the United States. As discussions on immigration reform continue, it is essential to recognize the contributions and potential of DACA recipients and work toward finding comprehensive and sustainable solutions for their futures.
Please contact the Law Office of Ghenadie Rusu for more information about DACA.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. Can DACA recipients travel outside the United States?
No, DACA recipients are generally not allowed to travel outside the United States unless they receive specific permission through a process called Advance Parole. It is crucial for DACA recipients to consult with immigration attorneys or organizations for guidance before considering any international travel.
2. Can DACA recipients apply for federal financial aid for college?
No, DACA recipients are not eligible for federal financial aid programs such as Pell Grants or federal student loans. However, some states and private institutions offer financial aid opportunities specifically for DACA students.
3. Can DACA recipients apply for permanent residency or citizenship?
DACA does not provide a direct path to permanent residency or citizenship. However, legislative solutions such as the DREAM Act, if passed, could create a pathway to citizenship for eligible DACA recipients.
4. What happens if DACA is terminated?
If DACA were to be terminated, individuals who currently have DACA status would lose their protection fromdeportation and work authorization. They could potentially be at risk of being removed from the United States. However, the termination of DACA would likely have significant political and legal implications, and it is uncertain how the situation would unfold.
5. Can DACA recipients petition for family members to come to the United States?
No, DACA recipients do not have the ability to petition for family members to come to the United States solely based on their DACA status. However, they may explore other immigration options or consult with immigration attorneys to understand their specific circumstances and potential options for family reunification.
Please note that immigration policies and regulations can change over time, and it is crucial to seek the most up-to-date information from reliable sources or consult with immigration professionals for accurate guidance.