Dreamers Should Not Wait for Election to File for DACA

By Reeves & Associates

The window to file applications for deferred action may close in November if Mitt Romney wins the coming presidential election.  Mr. Romney’s campaign recently told the Boston Globe that he would honor applications filed prior to his election but would not accept new ones after taking office. 

As many readers are aware, the Obama administration recently implemented a policy allowing many undocumented foreign nationals to apply for deferred action and work authorization.  This policy has come to be known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or” DACA.”  While many eligible applicants elected to apply immediately, far more are waiting to apply out of fear of disclosing their presence to the U.S. immigration authorities. 

From the outset of this announcement many people have also expressed concern about the fate of the entire program should the November election result in the President Obama being replaced by Mitt Romney and a new administration. The Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications under this process on August 15, 2012 and recently the first few approvals have begun to trickle out nationwide. 

Data released this week indicates that through September 15th about 82,000 applications have been filed (out of an estimated 1.4 million potential applicants)  and 59 applications have been approved.  Happily, we can report that several Reeves & Associates clients have been on the receiving end of some of the few early approvals. The uncertainty over the result of the coming election has been cited by many potentially eligible applicants as the reason they were waiting to file DACA applications.  Based on recent statements by candidate Romney, if he wins the election it is possible those who have not yet applied for DACA will not get an opportunity to do so.

The Romney campaign’s statement that it would cease the DACA program came as clarification of Mr. Romney’s earlier statement to  The Denver Post on that if he’s elected president, he will not cancel President Barack Obama’s deferred action program for young illegal immigrants before instituting another immigration plan: "The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased," Romney said. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed."

In addition to getting the terminology all wrong (the DACA program does not involve the issuance of visas), Romney’s comments raises a number of unanswered questions for applicants and potential applicants about the fate of their chances to receive deferred action and work authorization should he be elected.  Importantly, Mr. Romney did not clarify what would happen to applications pending as of the date of his election.

Regardless, the best thing for potential applicants to do is to apply prior to the election to ensure that they are at least able to submit their application before the window potentially closes.  Those who submit applications prior to the election still could see their applications approved while those who wait may not even get the opportunity to apply. 

Persons may apply for deferred action if they: arrived in the United States before the age of sixteen; were under 31 years of age on the date of the announcement on June 15, 2012; fell out of lawful status by the time of the announcement; graduated high school, or obtained a GED, or are enrolled in school, or were honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces; resided in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007; and, have no significant criminal history.

An applicant for deferred action can apply for a work authorization and subsequently obtain a social security card and a driver’s license. The DACA program may end up being a short lived blip on the immigration landscape.  If you or a loved one are potentially eligible for deferred action it is important that you speak with an experienced immigration attorney to determine if now is the time for you to file your DACA application.