On June 15th, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security created (DACA). It’s an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that provides temporary relief from deportation. DACA also provides work authorization to young undocumented immigrants that have come into the United States as children. In September 2017, with the attempted rescission of DACA initiative, there has been renewed pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that is known as the Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors) to protect young immigrants that are vulnerable to deportation. All young undocumented immigrants protected under DACA are also known as ‘Dreamers.’ To qualify as ‘Dreamers’, they must have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, when the DACA program began. Also, they must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and have lived there continuously for five years, since June 15, 2007. The most significant number of Dreamers come from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Most of them are living in California, New York, Texas, and Florida. According to the White House, they mostly range from 15 to 36 years old.
A large number of Dreamers said that they didn’t know that they were unauthorized immigrants until they had become teenagers. In most cases, that happens when they realize they are unable to get a driver’s license or fill out financial aid forms for their college of choice because they do not have a Social Security Number. The DREAM Act is supposed to provide a pathway to United States citizenship for the undocumented youth immigrants that are going to college or serving in the military while maintaining a good record.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has enabled around 800,000 eligible young adults to attend school, work lawfully, and, most importantly, to plan their lives without the constant threat of deportation. Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals, however, doesn’t provide permanent legal status to these young individuals, and their status has to be renewed every two years.
To apply for DACA, you have to provide confirmation of your identity, proof of education and evidence that you’ve been living in the United States at the prescribed times. Besides that, you’ll need to pass fingerprint, background, and similar biometric tests that record identifying biological features.
So far, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is considered successful, and it has assisted many young people in a variety of ways. According to the national study research from 2017, about 91% of DACA respondents were employed. Their average wage was $17.46 per hour, which had risen from a less substantial $10.29 before they’d received DACA. Approximately 45% of the respondents were currently in school, and among them, 72% were pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher. Almost 80 percent of responded immigrants said that they had obtained their driver’s license, which is considered a public safety improvement for the US population.
There have been some ongoing lawsuits about DACA, but for now, renewals are still being accepted. On November 12, 2019, the United States Supreme Court heard an oral discussion over the program’s legal validity, the culmination of which is expected no later than June 2020. All of the recipients that already have DACA can submit new applications to renew their preexistent status.
To avoid losing the protection from deportation, accruing unlawful presence, and being without valid work authorization, it’s crucial to apply for the renewal on time. It’s recommended to apply at least 150 days before your work permit and DACA expire.
USCIS now accepts applications from 150 days before the expiration date to 364 days prior to it, so you can apply for the renewal if your DACA expires in less than one year. If you apply in that time range, you are supposed to receive the approval notice and the new work permit before your current one even expires.
State Policies Protecting Dreamers
Although states can’t legalize the status of undocumented youth immigrants, they can address some related issues which stem from their lack of documentation. What’s essential is that numerous states enacted legislation that will help overcome undocumented youths’ barriers to higher education. According to several specific state laws, undocumented students can qualify for in-state tuition and attend state universities.
Even though undocumented students are now allowed to attend college, the tuition is usually prohibitively expensive, which is why it is extremely difficult for most of them to attend public universities.
To help afford college, around nineteen states passed laws that have provided undocumented students with the opportunity to receive in-state tuition. Some of the states are allowing undocumented students to pay the same college tuition as the other state residents if they graduated from the state’s primary and secondary schools. These states are Illinois, Kansas, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah, Texas, and Washington. The States’ law usually requires undocumented students to attend a primary school in the United States for a certain number of years, and also to graduate from high school in that same state.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss future issues surrounding adjustment of status or immigration, you can set up a time to talk to our Chicago Immigration lawyers about the temporary relief from deportation.