Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program started by the Obama administration. Since August 15, 2012, certain undocumented immigrant youth who met strict requirements have been allowed to apply for deferred action, essentially placing their immigration cases on the back burner for purposes of immigration enforcement.
In Massachusetts, DACA status also confers eligibility for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, which is denied to other undocumented students. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that 19,000 Massachusetts residents are eligible, and another 4,000 will be eligible at a later date or if they meet educational requirements.
• Información sobre DACA en español (USCIS)
• FAQs sobre DACA em Português (USCIS, setembro 2012)
• Q&A on DACA under Trump (National Immigration Law Center)
• Updated DACA info (Immigrant Legal Resource Center)
DACA was implemented as a use of prosecutorial discretion, on a case-by-case basis, not as a new law, and is thus subject to change by the Trump administration. Despite criticizing DACA during the campaign, President Trump has softened his language and expressed a desire to do something to help DACA beneficiaries. On June 15, the administration said the program would remain in place for now, but a spokesman later clarified that DACA is still under review.
MIRA would urge anyone thinking about submitting an initial application for DACA to be cautious, as you have to give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all your information, including your address. The incremental risk is much lower for those seeking to renew their DACA status, as DHS already has their information. In either case, MIRA strongly recommends consulting with an immigration attorney or a BIA-accredited representative to ensure that you do not increase your risk of deportation by submitting an application. The National Immigration Law Center has helpful guidance.
How does DACA work?
Under DACA, immigrant youth who are at least 15 years old and meet the requirements are eligible for a favorable grant of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis. Qualified youth who meet the requirements, including those in immigration proceedings and those with a removal order, are able to file for deferred action with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
People who are granted DACA status can then apply for work authorization through USCIS and obtain a Social Security number. A grant of deferred action is effective for two years and is renewable. Individuals who have been granted DACA status and wish to renew have to reapply both for deferred action and for work authorization.
Youth who are currently in immigration detention cannot apply for deferred action and should contact their deportation officer or jail liaison.
Who qualifies for DACA?
Immigrants eligible for prosecutorial discretion are those who:
1. Entered the United States before their 16th birthday;
2. Have continually resided in the United States since June 15, 2007;
3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces;
4. Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
5. Were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012; and
6. Were out of status on June 15, 2012.
Immigration general considers a “felony” to be any crime for which the sentence can be over one year, no matter what the individual was actually sentenced to. As with all immigration applications, all applicants will be subject to an FBI background check to verify their criminal history.
How do I request deferred action?
Individuals requesting deferred action must file three forms with USCIS: I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and the I-765 Worksheet. All forms can be obtained for free from the USCIS website. Applications from New England residents should be sent the USCIS Chicago Lockbox:
PO Box 5757
Chicago, IL 60680-5757
131 S. Dearborn, 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517
Is there a fee for the application?
The total fee for a deferred action request is $495 ($410 for the application for Employment Authorization and $85 for biometrics).
Are fee waivers available?
No, fee waivers are not available for DACA requests. However, fee exemptions are available in three limited cases:
1. (a) Under 18 years old, (b) homeless, in foster care or otherwise lacking any parental or other familial support, and (c) your income is less than 150% of FPL;
2. (a) Cannot care for yourself because you suffer from a serious, chronic disability and (b) your income is less than 150% of FPL; or
3. (a) Have accumulated $25,000 or more in debt in the past 12 months as a result of unreimbursed medical expenses for yourself or an immediate family members and (b) your income is less than 150% of FPL.
A request for a fee exemption must be filed and favorably adjudicated before you file a request for consideration of DACA without a fee. Individuals seeking a fee exemption should send a signed request letter along with supporting documentation to USCIS:
Attn: DACA Fee Exemption Request
20 Massachusetts Ave. NW
4th floor, Suite 4300
Washington, DC 20529
If the request for a fee exemption is approval, the individual should attach a copy of the approval letter to the front of the DACA request package.
What is a significant misdemeanor?
USCIS had defined a significant misdemeanor as any misdemeanor conviction for:
• Domestic violence;
• Sexual abuse or exploitation;
• Unlawful possession or use of a Firearm;
• Drug distribution or trafficking;
• Driving under the influence; or
• Any other misdemeanor for which the individual was sentenced to more than 90 days in custody.
Please be aware that immigration law considers a “continuance without a finding” as a conviction!
Is there a deadline for filing requests?
No, there is no deadline for filing a request. However, remember that because this is an administrative policy rather than a law, it could change at any time.