What Is DACA?

by | Nov 19, 2021 | DACA, Immigration

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy initiative that grants work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to young and undocumented immigrants. DACA was created on June 15, 2012 by the then Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. While offering temporary protection to individuals for a certain period, DACA does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship. Individuals eligible under the stipulated guidelines must renew their applications every two years.

History of DACA

DACA was established after Obama’s Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act did not pass in Congress. This Act sought to provide legal status to children of immigrants who had entered the US unlawfully. When the DREAM Act failed to pass, Obama issued DACA via a presidential executive order as a temporary measure.

The initial DACA program protected young, undocumented immigrants from being deported. It also allowed them to obtain work permits for two years which could be renewed on the grounds of good behavior. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would begin to phase out DACA by putting several restrictions in place. Consequently, multiple court cases prevented ending of the DACA program with the Supreme Court ultimately ruling that an attempt to end it was a violation of federal law.

Who are the current recipients of DACA?

Based on reports from USCIS, as of June 30, 2021, there were about 590,000 active DACA recipients. This number has declined by over 46,000 since December 31, 2020. Almost 84,000 DACA recipients had pending renewals and were therefore not considered “active”.

Demographically, below is some information available about active DACA recipients during the same time:

  • The average age of recipients was about 27 years. The largest number–almost 204,000–belonged to the 21-25 years group closely followed by the 26-30 years group (about 192,00).
  • About 315,000 active recipients were female and almost 275,000 were male.
  • The largest number of recipients were from Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, South Korea, Peru, and Brazil.
  • Majority of the recipients–about 426,000–were single while 146,000 were married and almost 11,000 were divorced.
  • Most DACA recipients were found to be living in California and Texas. Many of them were also located in Arizona, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina.
  • About 254,000 children who were born in the US have at least one parent who is a DACA recipient.
  • Homes containing DACA recipients pay at least $5.6 billion in federal taxes every year.

In 2020, it was estimated that about 203,000 recipients of DACA worked in essential industries such as education, healthcare, and food industries. About 30,000 recipients were healthcare professionals including doctors, psychiatric aides, registered nurses, medical, and dental assistants. About 15,000 of the recipients are teachers. In addition, almost 142,000 DACA recipients worked in agriculture, food processing and distribution, food warehousing, and grocery store operations.

Determining eligibility under DACA

The Center for American Progress mentions that almost 1.8 million people are eligible for DACA. However, as of March 2020, only slightly more than 800,000 people had been enrolled in the DACA program.

There are several guidelines that dictate who is eligible to apply under DACA-

  • You entered the US before your 16th birthday
  • Were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012 (born on June 16, 1981 or thereafter)
  • Have lived continuously in the US since June 15, 2007, and until the present time
  • Were physically there in the US on June 15, 2012 and while making your request for considering deferred action with USCIS
  • Did not have lawful immigration status on or before June 15, 2012. Any such lawful status or parole that you had expired prior to June 15, 2012
  • Are presently in school, have graduated, received a certificate of completion of high school, obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or were honorably discharged from the armed forces
  • Were not convicted of a serious misdemeanor or felony, or three or more misdemeanors, and must not pose any threat to public safety or national security

Age related guidelines

As mentioned above, when submitting your DACA application, you must have been under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012. You should also be at least 15 years or more to ask for DACA. Exceptions apply if you are presently in removal proceedings or have a removal or voluntary departure order. If you are going through removal proceedings and are not in immigration detention, you can be less than 15 years while submitting your request. You still must be under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012.

Education and military service guidelines

In terms of your educational qualifications, your status should be of someone who graduated from public or private high school, secondary school, or obtained a GED. You could also be enrolled in school at the time of applying for DACA. If you were in school but did not graduate, then you are not eligible to apply.

On the other hand, if you are an honorably discharged service member of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Coast Guard, you are eligible to apply. If you are not currently enrolled in school and are not an honorably discharged veteran, you do not qualify for DACA. If you wish to know whether you are eligible to apply for DACA, it is best to consult an immigration attorney.

DACA application

If you meet the eligibility criteria set forth by USCIS, you will need to take several steps to submit your request for DACA. If this is your first time applying for DACA, below are the steps you must follow:

  • Fill out Forms I-821D and I-765 (officially known as “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” and “Application for Employment Authorization Document” respectively). Filing address varies according to the state where you live and can be found here.
  • Mail both forms to USCIS and pay the application fees which $495 including an $85 biometric fee
  • Schedule and attend a biometrics appointment at a nearby USCIS Application Support Center

If you are applying to renew your DACA application, you will need to fill out Forms I-821D and I-765. You are also required to fill out the Form I-765W Worksheet. Make sure to submit the right fees for your application. Typically, USCIS processes renewal requests for DACA within 120 days of submitting your application.

DACA application documents

There are multiple supporting documents that must accompany your DACA application. These documents can be copies unless you are specifically asked to submit original documents. Here is the list of documents you are required to submit:

  • A proof of identity document such as your passport from your country of origin, birth certificate, U.S. government immigration document or another document bearing your photo and name
  • A document proving that you arrived in the US prior to your 16th birthday. This could be your passport with a stamp of admission, travel records, hospital records, or school records from the US schools you went to. Other examples consist of dated bank transactions, insurance policies, automobile license receipts, or employment records.
  • Your present immigration status. Examples of documents are final order of deportation, exclusion, or removal issued as of June 15, 2012. Forms I-94/I-95/I-94W with an authorized stay expiration date or another document that places you in removal proceedings.
  • Any document proving that you were present in the US on June 15, 2012 and that you continuously remained in the US since June 15, 2007. You can present utility bills, school or military records, passport entries, deeds, mortgages, rent receipts, and more.
  • If you are applying as a student, you need to submit evidence of your student status at the time of your application. You can submit official records from the school you are presently attending, your U.S. high school diploma or certificate of completion, or your U.S. GED certificate.
  • If you are a veteran, you need to provide Form DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. You could also present NGB Form 22, National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service. Other documents include military personnel or health records.

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions webpage on the USCIS website for more information on documents needed to file a DACA application. As the application process involves several components and could become quite complex, it is advised to work with an immigration attorney to process your DACA application.

DACA status

You can learn about the status of your case by using the “My Case Status” tool on the USCIS website. You will need to provide the receipt number for either your DACA application or your employment authorization application. If you are submitting multiple applications, you will be receiving a receipt after each application. You could also create an online account on USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS) to track the status of your case.

If you are granted DACA and/or employment authorization for your case, you will be receiving a decision in a written format. Your employment authorization document will be reaching you separately by mail. If the USCIS does not grant DACA for your case, you are not able to appeal the decision or even file a motion for reopening or reconsidering your case.

However, you might request a review of your case using the Service Request Management Tool. You can use this option if you believe that you have satisfied all DACA guidelines but think that an administrative error might have caused the denial. For instance, if USCIS believes that you had abandoned your case by not responding to the Request for Evidence (RFE) but you had responded within the allotted time frame.

Advance Parole DACA

Advance Parole is an application to USCIS whereby recipients of DACA can apply for permission to travel outside the United States and return lawfully. USCIS approves travel for only those DACA recipients who can demonstrate that their need to travel is due to “humanitarian, education, or employment” reasons. The cost of applying for Advance Parole DACA is $360.

Note that there is a restriction for the duration of travel. You will be inspected at the border upon returning and there is a likelihood of you being denied entry even if the government permitted your travel. If you are a DACA applicant, you may not travel outside the US until after your DACA request has been approved. DACA applicants travelling outside the US without a travel approval risk losing their DACA status.

DACA news

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that the DACA program was illegal on July 16, 2021. In keeping with the decision, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to accept the filling of both first-time and renewal DACA requests. Following the District Court decision, DHS is not granting first-time DACA requests and any accompanying request for employment authorization presently. Per the policy, DHS may also grant or deny renewal DACA requests.

On September 10, 2021, the Biden administration appealed the decision of the District Court, stating the current federal government’s commitment to DACA. On September 28, 2021, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) presented a proposal for the recreation of the DACA program within federal rules. More information about this decision will follow.

DACA attorney in San Jose

DACA was created to provide temporary assistance to hundreds of thousands of undocumented young individuals living in the US. In the absence of DACA, these young immigrants are unable to find work legally in the US and risk getting deported to countries where they have not lived since a very young age. Being faced with such a situation makes it both challenging and impossible for these young people to contemplate a stable future for themselves.

If you need to file a DACA application in San Jose, consider working with an immigration lawyer. An immigration attorney is well-informed about your rights as an immigrant and will aggressively fight for your case. Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office provides legal consulting for individuals eligible for DACA and can guide you through the entire application process. Call 408-292-7995 to schedule your first consultation today.