On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a new immigration enforcement policy, benefiting young individuals who were the focus for relief under the failed DREAM Act legislation. Under the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, an applicant can receive protection from removal (formerly called deportation) and, in cases of economic necessity, authorization to work lawfully in the United States. To qualify for DACA relief, an applicant must prove that he or she:
- was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- came to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday;
- has continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 up to the present time;
- was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time of making the deferred action request;
- either entered without inspection before June 15, 2012 or had lawful immigration status that was expired as of June 15, 2012;
- is currently in school, graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or was an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- has not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
DACA relief is a temporary benefit made possible only by President Obama’s executive order and must be renewed every two years prior to expiration. The program is not a pathway to citizenship. When an individual renews DACA benefits, he or she must continue to satisfy the requirements discussed above. For example, if a DACA applicant was enrolled in school at the time of the first application, he or she must either still be enrolled and making progress toward the diploma or have completed the degree program. Similarly, an applicant must show that he or she still has a clean criminal record free of any disqualifying crimes.
According to published statistics, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received approximately 180,000 DACA applications as of October 10, 2012. Of those, only 4,591 approvals have been issued so far. Estimates of potential DACA beneficiaries have ranged from 800,000 to nearly 2 million individuals.
With the announcement of the DACA program, many undocumented individuals
will be dealing directly with U.S. immigration officials for the first
time. As such, there is an increased risk of being targeted by unscrupulous
individuals who seek to prey on immigrants’ lack of knowledge of
U.S. immigration laws. In many Spanish-speaking countries, a “notario”
or “notario publico” is a lawyer with special credentials
and training. In the United States, however, notarios are not lawyers
and are not authorized to practice law or to give legal advice. Sadly,
many immigrants have had their cases permanently ruined by notarios. Accordingly,
individuals who need assistance with DACA applications are strongly encouraged
to seek advice from a licensed immigration attorney.
Secretary Napolitano Memo on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (June 15, 2012)