In the United States, there are millions of undocumented immigrants who have been brought to the country as children. For many of them, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has provided a temporary reprieve from the fear of deportation and opened up new opportunities. In this article, we will delve into the eligibility criteria for DACA, the application process, benefits, and limitations, and explore the future of this program.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an immigration policy that was established in 2012 under the Obama administration. It provides temporary protection from deportation and grants work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The primary purpose of DACA is to offer relief to individuals who may have otherwise faced the risk of removal due to their immigration status.
Basic Requirements for DACA Eligibility
To be eligible for DACA, individuals must meet several criteria. Firstly, they must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Secondly, they should have arrived in the United States before turning 16 years old. Continuous residence in the country since June 15, 2007, is another important requirement. Moreover, individuals must be either currently enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. Lastly, applicants must demonstrate goodmoral character, meaning they should not have a significant criminal record or pose a threat to public safety.
Expanded DACA and DAPA
In 2014, the Obama administration announced an expansion of the DACA program, which aimed to provide relief to a broader range of undocumented immigrants. The expansion would have removed the age limit and extended the continuous residence requirement. Additionally, the administration introduced the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which would have granted temporary relief to certain parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. However, these expansions were challenged in court and ultimately blocked, preventing their implementation.
DACA Application Process
The process of applying for DACA involves several steps. First, applicants need to gather the necessary supporting documents, including proof of identity, proof of arrival in the United States, evidence of continuous residence, and educational or military records. Next, they must fill out the appropriate application forms, namely Form I-821D and Form I-765, and provide accurate and detailed information. After completing the forms, the application needs to be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It’s important to note that there are application fees associated with DACA, but fee waivers are available for those who qualify. Processing times for DACA applications vary, but applicants can check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information.
Benefits and Protections under DACA
DACA provides several benefits and protections to eligible recipients. Firstly, it offers temporary protection from deportation, allowing individuals to live and work in the United States without the constant fear of being removed from the country. It also grants work authorization, enabling recipients to legally seek employment and contribute to the economy. DACA recipients can obtain a Social Security Number, which allows them to pay taxes and access certain benefits. Additionally, some states provide DACA recipients with access to in-state tuition rates and financial aid for higher education. Moreover, DACA recipients may be eligible to obtain driver’s licenses in many states, which facilitates mobility and daily activities.
Travel and Re-entry under DACA
Under certain circumstances, DACA recipients may be eligible for travel outside the United States using a document called Advance Parole. Advance Parole allows individuals to depart the country for educational, employment, or humanitarian reasons and be paroled back into the United States. However, it’s essential to understand the risks involved in travel and re-entry. Traveling outside the country without proper authorization can lead to the termination of DACA benefits, and there is always a possibility of encountering difficulties when returning to the U.S. It is crucial to consult with an immigration attorney or qualified legal expert before considering any international travel plans.
Employment Opportunities for DACA Recipients
DACA recipients have been able to pursue various employment opportunities in the United States. With work authorization granted under DACA, they can seek employment in a wide range of fields. However, it’s important to note that certain limitations and challenges exist. Some employers may have reservations about hiring DACA recipients due to uncertainties surrounding the program’s future. Additionally, career growth and educational opportunities may be affected by the lack of permanent legal status. Nevertheless, DACA recipients have shown resilience and determination, often excelling in their chosen fields despite the challenges they face.
Renewing DACA Status
DACA status is temporary and needs to be renewed periodically. The timeframe for renewal is generally every two years, but it’s crucial to stay informed about any changes in renewal requirements. Renewal applications should be submitted well in advance of the expiration date to avoid any gap in protection or work authorization. The renewal process involves completing and submitting the appropriate forms, providing updated documentation, and paying the necessary fees. It is essential to submit renewal applications on time to ensure continuous protection under DACA. Additionally, it’s important to stay informed about potential changes inDACA policy that may impact the renewal process.
Limitations and Ineligibility for DACA
While DACA offers significant benefits, there are limitations and certain factors that can make individuals ineligible for the program. One of the primary disqualifying factors is the presence of significant criminal convictions or involvement in certain criminal activities. Gang affiliations and public safety concerns can also impact eligibility. Late or incomplete applications can result in denial or delays in processing. Furthermore, there are age restrictions, and individuals who were older than 31 as of June 15, 2012, are not eligible for DACA. It’s crucial to understand these limitations and factors to determine eligibility accurately.
The Future of DACA
The DACA program has faced political and legal challenges over the years. While it has provided relief to many individuals, its future remains uncertain. Various court cases and legal battles have influenced the program’s stability, and there have been attempts to terminate or modify DACA through executive action. However, there is widespread public support for protecting DACA recipients, and legislative efforts have been made to establish a pathway to permanent protection and citizenship. The future of DACA will continue to be shaped by political developments and the advocacy of immigrant rights groups.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
FAQ 1: Can DACA recipients apply for financial aid for college? Yes, DACA recipients can apply for financial aid for college. While they are not eligible for federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants or federal student loans, some states and colleges offer financial aid programs specifically for undocumented students, including DACA recipients. It’s important to research and reach out to colleges and universities to explore available options.
FAQ 2: Can DACA recipients obtain a driver’s license in all states? No, driver’s license eligibility for DACA recipients varies by state. The majority of states allow DACA recipients to apply for and obtain driver’s licenses, but a few states still do not grant this privilege. It’s essential to check the specific requirements and regulations in the state where you reside to determine your eligibility.
FAQ 3: Can DACA recipients join the military? Currently, DACA recipients are not eligible to join the U.S. military. The eligibility criteria for military service require individuals to be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. However, there have been legislative efforts to allow DACA recipients to enlist in the military, and it’s important to stay informed about any potential changes in policies.
FAQ 4: Can DACA recipients become U.S. citizens? DACA recipients do not automatically receive a path to U.S. citizenship through the DACA program. DACA provides temporary relief from deportation and work authorization but does not grant a direct pathway to citizenship. However, there are other potential pathways to citizenship, such as marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, employment-based sponsorship, or certain humanitarian programs. It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to explore available options.
FAQ 5: Can DACA be terminated by the government? While the DACA program has faced challenges and attempts to terminate it, it remains in place as of the time of writing. However, it’s important to stay informed about any changes in DACA policy, as political and legal developments can impact the program’s future. It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or trusted legal resource to stay updated on any potential changes that may affect DACA.
DACA has provided temporary relief and opportunities for undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children. Understanding the eligibility criteria, application process, benefits, and limitations of DACA is crucial for those seeking to benefit from the program. While the future of DACA remains uncertain, public support and legislative efforts continue to shape the conversation around the program’s permanence and the quest for a path to permanent protection and citizenship for DACA recipients.
Please contact the Law Office of Ghenadie Rusu for more information about DACA.