What Undocumented Immigrants Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in California

What Undocumented Immigrants Should Know About Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in California

Jennifer Stralka
Jennifer Stralka
 | 
As many as 80,000 undocumented individuals currently residing in the United States came to this country as children, with several of them arriving from Mexico.  Since children pose little threat to this country, President Obama issued an executive order on June 15, 2012 adopting DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  

Following President Obama’s executive order, the secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security made an announcement that certain undocumented children who arrived in the United States and satisfy certain key guidelines may request relief from being deported from the country.  

Despite political attempts to terminate DACA, as discussed more fully below, the initiative has enabled nearly 800,000 qualifying young adults to lawfully work, attend school, and plan their lives in the United States without facing a constant threat of deportation - typically to an unfamiliar country.  Overall, DACA reflects a judgment that these undocumented immigrants should not be subject to removal for certain humanitarian concerns and other considerations.  It also enables these individuals to work and support their families in addition to contributing to the nation’s economy.

If you wish to apply for DACA in California, you are best served to contact a skilled California immigration lawyer who can answer all of your important questions and advise you of your legal rights and options.
Qualifying for Relief Under DACA.

Under DACA, it defers for a renewable period of two years the removal of certain undocumented immigrants who (i) were brought to the United States as children, (ii) stayed in school, (iii) obeyed the law, or (iv) joined the military. 

To seek relief from deportation pursuant to DACA, you must submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and satisfy the following guidelines:
  • As of June 15, 2012, you were under the age of 31;
  • Before the age of 16 you arrived in the United States;
  • You have continuously lived in the United States from June 15, 2007 until the present;
  • You were in the United States as well as at the time of applying for DACA on June 15, 2012;
  • You were not lawfully in the United States as of June 15, 2012 (meaning that you did not have a lawful visa or permanent resident status or your immigration status or parole expired as of June 15, 2012);
  • You graduated or received a certificate of completion from high school, are currently enrolled in school, were honorably discharged from the military, or obtained a general education development certificate; and
  • You were not convicted of a felony-level offense, three or more misdemeanors, significant misdemeanor, and do not pose a threat to public safety or national security.
It is important to understand that if the USCIS grants a DACA application, this does not mean that a person becomes eligible for citizenship.  Perhaps with the Biden administration, this may become a reality.  However, as noted above, DACA provides a qualified individual the freedom of knowing that they will not be subject to removal proceedings for two years, and allows the DACA recipient to apply for a renewal of deferred status.  Keep in mind that a person must pass a background check in order to be eligible for DACA.

DACA and the Trump Administration
On September 5, 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced a “wind down” of DACA.  As such, it forced USCIS to reject new applications for DACA.  DACA beneficiaries whose status was set to expire before March 5, 2018 were able to seek a renewal thereof for two more years if they submitted an application to USCIS by October 5, 2017.  Any individual whose DACA status was set to expire as of March 6, 2018 was not able to seek employment authorization or deferred action.

Accordingly, U.S. district courts in New York, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland challenged the attempted rescission.  Soon thereafter, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to examine the challenges to the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate the DACA program.  The Court ultimately ruled that such efforts were unlawful, asserting that the administration did not properly explain its decision or consider alternatives to termination of DACA in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.  

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, on December 4, 2020, a federal court issued an order for USCIS to (i) accept both renewal and new DACA applications; (ii) accept applications for one year for advance parole documents; (iii) extend  grants of deferred action under DACA to two years; and (iv) extend one-year grants of employment authorization documents under DACA to two years.  As such, this enabled hundreds of thousands of qualifying undocumented immigrants to obtain relief from removal proceeds that woud otherwise result in deportation.

The Biden Administration Seeks to Preserve and Fortify DACA

On January 20, 2021, President Biden released a memorandum requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the assistance of the Attorney General, to take certain measures in preserving and fortifying DACA pursuant to the applicable law.  

How a California Immigration Lawyer Can Help

If you are a resident of California and believe that you may qualify for DACA, it is important that you speak with a California immigration attorney as soon as possible.  An attorney will answer all of your important questions, advise you of your legal rights, and guide you through the DACA application process. 

For further information on DACA, click here

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
Jennifer Stralka

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