On September 5, 2017, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced that the Trump Administration is rescinding the Obama-era immigration program “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” better known as “DACA.”
With the announcement, as of September 5, 2017, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will no longer be accepting applications for initial (new) DACA applicants. Any applications that were not received before September 5th, will be returned, and given no further consideration. USCIS will, however, accept renewal applications for DACA recipients whose work permits expire within the next six months, until October 5, 2017. USCIS has also stated that any Advance Parole applications that were submitted based on DACA, would be administratively closed and fees would be refunded. Unless Congress Acts, DACA will officially come to an end March 5, 2018.
DACA was a program enacted by President Obama in order to protect non-citizen children who were brought into the United States by their parents. This program allowed such children, who came in before 2007, to apply for deferred status. In order to qualify for DACA, an applicant had to i) enter the country before they were 16 years old; ii) currently attend high school or have finished high school with a diploma; and iii) not be convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more minor misdemeanors. The program was an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that, if granted, would provide the recipient a work permit with assurances he/she would not get deported. An approval of DACA granted the recipient two years of legal status, which must be renewed every two years to remain active. Applicants had to face rigorous background checks and provide detailed personal information to the federal government, in order to demonstrate that they qualified for the DACA program. In ending DACA, President Trump has left the fate of these recipients to the members of Congress, who have only six months to enact legislation addressing the issue, before the program’s official end.
Although President Trump has ended DACA, recipients still have rights and possibly other avenues to gain lawful status. If you are a DACA recipient, our office encourages you to be vigilant and prepared. Here are a few ways you can plan for the program’s end:
1) Apply for your Social Security Number, if you have not done so already. This number is a valid number for life and can be used for education purposes, banking purposes, housing and other purposes.
2) Apply for your driver’s license. As a DACA recipient, you are able to apply for your driver’s license without requiring it be marked that you are a non-citizen immigrant.
3) Know your rights. Consult with our office about the rights you have as an immigrant, including whether you qualify for any other forms of relief.
4) Know your rights with regard to employment. Your employer is not entitled to ask you if you are a DACA recipient and cannot fire you based on your status as a DACA recipient. The only time an employer may change your work schedule, suspend you or fire you due to your immigration status, is if your work permit has expired. At this time, do not volunteer to your employer information that you are a DACA recipient, facing an expiration date of your work permit.
5) Exercise caution in deciding to leave the United States, particularly if you already have an Advance Parole approved. It is completely within the discretion of Customs & Border Patrol whether to allow you back into the country. If you have a criminal record or prior removals, it would be best to avoid leaving, despite having permission to do so.
6) Call your congressmen. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to pressure our congressmen to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients or provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA applicants. Have your friends, family and neighbors call their local congressmen to show their support for DACA and the Dreamers.
If your DACA work permit is going to expire on or before March 5, 2018, it is crucial you call our office so that we can file for your renewal immediately. The deadline to file your renewal application is October 5, 2017. If you are a DACA recipient, or know someone who is, call our office today at 818-253-1641 to consult with our attorneys and determine if you are eligible for other forms of relief. Do not wait until your permit expires to explore other potential avenues of relief from deportation.
About the author: Leslie Reyes is a licensed immigration, criminal and family law attorney in good standing in the State of California, and a founding partner of the law office of Reyes & Schroeder Associates, P.C..