With President Trump announcing plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on March 5, 2018, there has been a media storm about what it will mean for the 800,000 in the program. Though this has become a hot button issue, it seems many people commenting have developed opinions about the program without even having a clear understanding of what it includes, and what it takes to apply.
So what is DACA?
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.
In other words, it is a program for children brought into the country illegally to have deportation deferred if they apply and are accepted into the program.
To apply for DACA you have to meet the following criteria:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The fees to apply for DACA total $465. The program lasts for two years and renewals should be done 120 days before the expiration. Applicants are not eligible for renewal if they have left the country without permission, or been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors. The renewal fee is also $465. There are fee exemptions available.
Photos and fingerprints are taken of all applicants.
So if “Dreamers” are accepted into the DACA program why have they not just applied for citizenship? Well, for many it simply isn’t an option because they do not meet the qualifications for various reasons.
To become a citizen, first, you need to have been a green card permanent resident for five years. Just filing fee for a green card is $1225, and beyond the cost, it is quite the process.
To start with you must first be sponsored. There are three ways to do this:
- A person can be admitted as a refugee or apply for asylum.
- An eligible employer can sponsor a person.
- A close family member seeks permission to bring someone in (the most common way).
Most DACA recipients do not have this option available to them. They may have a close family member, but depending on how close that process can take a year and a half to 25 years. For most applicants, you must be immediate family members.
Also, only 25,000 people from Mexico are allowed to legally immigrate each year and there are 1.3 million on the waiting list. If no other applicants were added it would take 52 years to process the list.
The truth is that DACA is in no way set up to lead children brought here illegally to a green card or citizenship. If they leave the country to apply properly they are banned from re-entry for up to a decade and do not qualify for any waiver or visas. Most of these individuals are working or attending school. If DACA comes to an end without Congressional action they may be deported to a land they do not remember and possibly to a language they do not even speak.
Immigration is a tough issue. We are a nation of immigrants, but we must also provide for the common defense. The failure to secure the border put children in a predicament they didn’t ask for, and guilty of a crime they didn’t commit. Congress must act to both secure the border and as President Trump says to “legalize DACA” in the next six months.