What is DACA?

Everything you need to know about this immigration policy in the United States.

It is no secret that American immigration laws are quite strict, and in order to obtain legal permanent residence in the Unites States, it can be far more difficult than expected.

That is why we would like to begin by giving you 2 tips:

First, try to find a good immigration lawyer in the Unites States. This will make the process and your life much easier. These professionals will guide you in all of the processes you will have to apply and go through, and your probabilities of success will increase dramatically.

Second, it is very important for you, personally, to know and understand American immigration law to some extent. This is how you will know what policies and processes to follow.

That is why we at Xavier Law Firm, an immigration law firm located in the Houston area, want to teach you everything you need to know about DACA, an immigration policy that was implemented in 2012, and which benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Do you want to know what this policy is all about and how it works?Well, keep on reading and find out.

What is DACA?

DACA stands for ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’. It was an immigration policy established in 2012 by then president Barack Obama. Its purpose was to help immigrants who arrived into the United States when they were children, and who had reached a relatively high education level.

This policy emerges out of the inability of the government to approve a comprehensive immigration reform that could protect from deportation those people who arrived into the United States during their childhood. 

Thanks to this policy, the Department of National Security sent a memorandum stating that it did not need to be approved by Congress. And so, DACA was born.

The purpose was to ease the process for those immigrants who had lived most of their lives in the US, give these young people access to higher education, and help them to have a better quality of life.

Is DACA still in force?

Unfortunately, DACA, the current immigration policy, is no longer in force. In 2017, new applications for DACA were suspended, as part of the immigration reform policies taken by the Trump administration, who promised to be more severe with undocumented immigrants.

One of the main reasons given as for why DACA was suspended, is that it was considered unconstitutional, since it was not debated or approved by Congress, since it was an action taken exclusively by the executive power alone, meaning Barack Obama.

At the same time, it was argued that DACA had indirectly increased the arrival of minors through the US southern border, these new immigrants were hoping to take part in the program and could eventually live in the United States legally.

It had serious humanitarian consequences for these people, and it worsened the issue of immigration all around the country.

Another excuse to suspend this policy was that immigrants started getting stable and well-paid jobs. This means that many American citizens were rejected from these jobs because there was a whole new supply of immigrant workers to choose from.

Generally speaking, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to settle the “immigration issue” in a more effective way. By setting a limit to the number of immigrants every year, and being more strict with the people who want to enter into the United States by opting for getting permanent residence.

Who benefited from DACA?

DACA had the power to benefit all undocumented immigrants who arrived into the United States before they turned 16 years old, and who by the time of its start (June 2012) would be under 31 years of age.

About 2 million young people met this criteria, according to the immigration policy Institute. However, there were only around 800,000 approved petitions before the policy was suspended.

The main reason given as for why there were more than one million people decided not to take part in the program was fear of a sudden change in immigration law.

Basically, people were afraid that if there was change with DACA, the authorities could easily locate them using the information that they would have to provide.

Consequently, although 2 million people could have benefited from DACA, less than half actually did.

What are some of the differences between taking part in DACA and having a common visa?

DACA was a policy that sought to avoid young undocumented immigrants’ deportations from the United States who arrived in their infancy.

However, this does not mean that after taking part in the program there is an actual definite solution before the lack of of visa, residence or other form of legal status for these people.

There are many significant differences between getting an immigrant visa to live in the United States, and having DACA. Here we will number a few:

  • An visa is a legal permit to enter into the United States and remain in it for a given amount of time. Once this permit expires, you can renew it, or even finding a path to permanent residence, depending on your case. 

DACA, on the other hand, starts with a person who already has an illegal status in the United States. This policy tried to exempt the beneficiaries of deportation. However, these people did not have the same legal stability as those who have a visa, and if the policy was suspended, they would still be illegal. 

  • The number of benefits a person with a visa has is superior to that of a DACA beneficiary. This is because United States visas are limited in regards to rights and responsibilities. DACA, on the other hand, tried to temporarily solve the problem of all undocumented immigrants, while a comprehensive legislative solution was to be found.
  • The benefits of DACA were subject to changes by the executive branch, meaning that they were not all that stable to begin with, and that is exactly why so many people who met the requirements to be part of the program, did not actually apply for DACA.

One of the main benefits of DACA was that it allowed its beneficiaries, or “Dreamers” the access to higher education. If you want to know how you can do this with a, F1 Visa, click here. 

How were Dreamers affected by the end of DACA?

After September 5th, 2017. no more DACA applications were accepted, by order of Donald Trump’s administration.

Many people actually came to believe that the end of this policy, and Dreamers would be once again vulnerable to a deportation. Nevertheless, since 2017 up to now, Congress as well as the Supreme Court have not reached an agreement about what to do about those benefits granted to Dreamers.

The United States president, Donald Trump, has been asking Congress to pass legislation that would allow people who arrived into the United States when they were children not to be deported, no matter whether they were DACA beneficiaries or not.

In exchange, he has also proposed being more strict with immigration policy in the country, so that the problem with immigration may not get any worse.

For the time being, the only thing that we know is that the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it is lawful that the president finish the DACA program.

In the meantime, DACA beneficiaries still have all of the program’s benefits, which means that they can study and work without any problems withing the United States territory.

Dreamers will have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision in order to find out whether the program that protects them against deportation, and allows them to lead normal lives in the country.

“Unfortunately, under the current immigration policy, DACA is no longer in force. In 2017, new applications for DACA were suspended.”

What were the requirements to be part of the DACA program? 

Since DACA was a program that mainly benefited young people, not everyone could apply to benefit from this policy.

In fact, there were quite a few requirements that the applicant had to meet in order to be admitted into the program:

  • Be under 31 years of age by the time of the application date. 
  • Have arrived into the United States before they were 16 years old. 
  • Have lived uninterruptedly in the United States for at least 5 years. 
  • Be physically present in the country at the time when they applied to enter into the DACA program.
  • Not to have a legal status in the United States.
  • Be a student in any institution, have graduated, or have a High School Diploma.
  • Not to have been convicted of a felony, a meaningful misdemeanor, or 3 misdemeanors in the United States. 

Once it was proved that a person met all of these requirements, his or her application was processed and then approved without further complications.

On the other hand, if it was proved that an applicant did not meet any of the requirements, the application was rejected.  

Can I apply for DACA in 2019?

No, nowadays it is not possible to apply for DACA for the first time. From 2017, you can only extend your DACA if you already have it.

Out of almost 2 million people who met the requirements for DACA, less than 800 thousand could benefit from it to continue studying or to access the job market legally.

Since this policy was started by the Executive by means of the Security Council, suspending it did not actually require the approval of Congress.

However, what is still valid is the continuation of the benefits which were granted to more than 800 thousand people that took active part in the program.

Will DACA come back?

It is really hard to tell if DACA will be reestablished at some point in the future. Nevertheless, during the Trump administration, it is highly unlikely that this program will come back.

The current American president has expressed that he is unhappy with the results of this policy, and has prompted Congress and the Supreme court to make a negative decision for all of those who entered the country while they were minors.

Taking into account that DACA was never a final solution to the immigration problem of its participants, the fact that it will ever be in force again should not really be the goal of Dreamers.

The goal should be to get the American Congress to pass a law that would grant all Dreamers the possibility of obtaining legal permanent residence.

Therefore, the only thing left to do is wait to see what happens in future developments about this topic, and find out what the future holds for the DACA beneficiaries.

Generally speaking, DACA turned into a ray of light for young people who arrived to the United States while still young. However, in spite of having the best of intentions, this policy was not well executed, since it did offer its beneficiaries permanent stability or security.

In any case, if you live in the United States, and you do not have legal status in the United States, or if you are thinking about moving out of your country, and you do not know how to get your visa, remember that at Xavier Law Firm, we would be delighted to guide you and help you throughout the process.

Contact us if you need the support of an immigration attorney in Houston, Texas.

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