Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted through President Obama’s Executive Order in 2012. It has temporarily spared many young undocumented immigrants from deportation and also granted them work authorization. If granted, DACA will be valid for two years.
A DACA applicant must establish the following for their application to be approved:
• Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
• Entered the U.S. before turning 31-years-old;
• Continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
• Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
• Did not have lawful status as of 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 U.S.; 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 of public safety.
Meeting all of these requirements is not easy. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is not going to simply accept your written statement about when you entered the U.S., or that you have graduated high school, etc. It is quite the opposite, actually, as the USCIS will only approve an application if you submit evidence to satisfy each requirement. This evidence can take many forms, but is commonly school or medical records, tax returns, bank statements, etc. It is crucial that you submit sufficient documentation to maximize the chances that your application is approved.
DACA has been a tremendous help for young undocumented immigrants. While it is not permanent resident status or a path to U.S. citizenship, it has still provided many benefits, including the ability to apply for work authorization. This work authorization allows a person to work anywhere in the U.S., allowing productive young people to further contribute to our society. You should note that not every applicant is granted work authorization. The USCIS requires applicant to prove financial hardship.
Work authorization also allows DACA recipients to obtain a valid social security number as well as a driver’s license. This opens up a world of possibilities. Many who could not pursue a college degree because they lacked a social security number will now be able to pursue higher education. The cost of higher education has also been a significant factor keeping many undocumented immigrants from pursuing college or advanced degrees. The ability to work with valid work authorization will help alleviate some of this burden and make attending college a reality.
Any criminal history is a major concern for one applying for DACA. While a felony, serious misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors will automatically disqualify an applicant, the inquiry does not stop there. Although expungements are not normally considered in the immigration context, they may be recognized for DACA. On the other side, while convictions in Juvenile Court are not normally considered convictions for immigration purposes, they may be so considered here.
Because DACA is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion (which means the government has very wide, and unreviewable, latitude to make decisions), more than convictions will be taken into account. Arrests that did not result in convictions will have to be adequately explained. Suspicion of gang membership (which could be based solely on an innocent tattoo), participation in criminal activities or participation in activities that threaten the United States will all be reasons for denial. Any past activity that might fit these descriptions should be addressed in the initial application.
Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza – Full-Service Immigration Law
It is important to properly request DACA benefits. There are extensive requirements for documentary evidence and strict guidelines for eligibility—especially for those with criminal histories or any exits from the United States. The lawyers at Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza can help. We will work tirelessly to prepare and submit your DACA application, giving you work authorization and hopefully peace of mind that you will be granted deferred action for the next two years. Contact Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza today for a confidential consultation about your case.