Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
KEY THINGS TO KNOW (updated January 25, 2018):
The Trump administration has announced that it is terminating DACA. For those who already have DACA, your work permit and deferred action will continue until their expiration date; the only immediate change is that advance parole to travel abroad is no longer available. However:
• DACA beneficiaries with work authorizations expiring between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, had until October 5, 2017, to renew. Many of those renewal applications are still pending.
• Along with renewals filed by the October 5 deadline, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has continued to process initial applications and renewal requests that had been filed prior to September 5, 2017.
• USCIS will no longer accept any other first-time DACA applications or renewals.
NEW & IMPORTANT:
• Due to a U.S. District Court ruling on January 9, 2018, USCIS is at least temporarily accepting DACA renewal applications, including from people whose DACA expired prior to September 5, 2017, as well as those whose status is set to expire after March 5, 2018. A higher court could overturn that decision anytime. However, in the meantime, anyone in this situation should talk to a lawyer about reapplying. United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center have good FAQs to get you started.
We encourage all DACA recipients to seek expert legal advice, especially if your DACA expires within just a few months. There may be other options for you, but the process takes time. Find a lawyer through the American Immigration Lawyers Association or call one of these community-based organizations. DO NOT hire a notario!
For a good overview for all DACA beneficiaries, including those facing the October 5 deadline, we recommend this community advisory from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (en español / 用中文（表达). See also this FAQ on DACA and employment.
Need this as a handout? Here’s a PDF.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program started by the Obama administration. Since August 15, 2012, certain undocumented immigrant youth who met strict requirements have been allowed to apply for deferred action, essentially placing their immigration cases on the back burner for purposes of immigration enforcement.
In Massachusetts, DACA status also confers eligibility for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, which is denied to other undocumented students. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that 19,000 Massachusetts residents were eligible, and another 4,000 will be eligible at a later date or if they meet educational requirements.
• Free DACA renewal legal clinics calendar for Massachusetts
• What should DACA beneficiaries do if they have a criminal conviction or pending case? (Immigrant Legal Resource Center)
DACA was implemented as a use of prosecutorial discretion, on a case-by-case basis, not as a new law, which is why it was subject to change by the Trump administration. (See the USCIS announcement on the DACA rescission.)
According to administration talking points sent out to Congress, individuals with DACA “will not proactively be referred to ICE and placed in removal proceedings unless they satisfy one of the Department’s enforcement priorities.” Keep in mind that those who “committed an act that constitutes a crime” are considered an enforcement priority; this would include those who entered the country without authorization – a misdemeanor criminal offense. The administration is also encouraging those with DACA to use their remaining time to prepare to leave the United States.
Many DACA beneficiaries may be eligible for another immigration option. Consult with an immigration attorney or a BIA-accredited representative to learn what you can do.
What happens now?
The administration has been clear that it is up to Congress to provide a fix, but administration spokespeople have been evasive when asked if the president would actually sign such a bill. There are two potential legislative fixes already pending in Congress:
S 128/HR 496, BRIDGE Act
The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act was introduced on January 12, 2017, by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). It would codify DACA and extend the period of work authorization from the current two years to three. The bill is currently before the Committee of the Judiciary, which has taken no action.
S 1615/HR 3440, DREAM Act
The bipartisan DREAM Act would authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status for certain United States residents who entered the country as children. This version of the DREAM Act is broader than we have seen in the past – eligible individuals would be required to have entered the country before turning 18, have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least four years, meet certain educational requirements, and pass a background check. Individuals granted relief would have an eight-year Conditional Permanent Resident period before being eligible to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident status.
MIRA strongly supports the DREAM Act in particular, and we believe the bill can pass if members of Congress are relentless in pressing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor for a vote. Sign this petition and click through to call your Senators and Representative TODAY!