Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
KEY THINGS TO KNOW (updated September 12, 2017):
The Trump administration has announced that it is terminating DACA. For those who already have DACA, your work permit and deferred action will continue until their expiration date; the only immediate change is that advance parole to travel abroad is no longer available. However:
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer accept any first-time DACA applications.
• USCIS will continue to process initial applications and renewal requests that had been filed prior to September 5, 2017.
• DACA beneficiaries whose work authorization expires between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, have until October 5, 2017, to apply to renew their DACA for two more years.
• DACA beneficiaries whose work authorization expires after March 5, 2018, will not have the opportunity to renew it.
• DACA beneficiaries whose work authorization expired before September 5, 2017, and did not apply for renewal by that date can no longer renew it.
• Advance parole to travel abroad is no longer available for any DACA beneficiaries.
MIRA is hosting FREE DACA legal clinics on September 22 and 29 at Action for Boston Community Development, 178 Tremont St., Boston, with appointments from 10am to 4pm. Call (617) 350-5480, x200 to register; you can leave a voicemail ANYTIME and we’ll get back to you. Make sure to say you’re registering for a DACA clinic in particular.
For a good overview for all DACA beneficiaries, including those facing the October 5 deadline, we recommend this community advisory from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (en español / 用中文（表达). See also this FAQ on DACA and employment.
Need this as a handout? Here’s a PDF.
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.
• Free DACA renewal legal clinics calendar for Massachusetts
• What should DACA beneficiaries do if they have a criminal conviction or pending case? (Immigrant Legal Resource Center)
DACA was implemented as a use of prosecutorial discretion, on a case-by-case basis, not as a new law, which is why it was subject to change by the Trump administration. (See the USCIS announcement on the DACA rescission.)
According to administration talking points sent out to Congress, individuals with DACA “will not proactively be referred to ICE and placed in removal proceedings unless they satisfy one of the Department’s enforcement priorities.” Keep in mind that those who “committed an act that constitutes a crime” are considered an enforcement priority; this would include those who entered the country without authorization – a misdemeanor criminal offense. The administration is also encouraging those with DACA to use their remaining time to prepare to leave the United States.
If you are eligible to renew your DACA status (i.e. if it expires between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018), remember the deadline for renewal requests is October 5. Start the application immediately; see the box above for information about FREE legal clinics and financial aid. The City of Boston and several community organizations are also hosting informational events; we are posting details on our Facebook page.
Many DACA beneficiaries may be eligible for another immigration option. Consult with an immigration attorney or a BIA-accredited representative to learn what you can do.
What happens now?
The administration has been clear that it is up to Congress to provide a fix, but administration spokespeople have been evasive when asked if the president would actually sign such a bill. There are two potential legislative fixes already pending in Congress:
S 128/HR 496, BRIDGE Act
The Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act was introduced on January 12, 2017, by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). It would codify DACA and extend the period of work authorization from the current two years to three. The bill is currently before the Committee of the Judiciary, which has taken no action.
S 1615/HR 3440, DREAM Act
The bipartisan DREAM Act would authorize the cancellation of removal and adjustment of status for certain United States residents who entered the country as children. This version of the DREAM Act is broader than we have seen in the past – eligible individuals would be required to have entered the country before turning 18, have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least four years, meet certain educational requirements, and pass a background check. Individuals granted relief would have an eight-year Conditional Permanent Resident period before being eligible to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident status.
MIRA strongly supports the DREAM Act in particular, and we believe the bill can pass if members of Congress are relentless in pressing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor for a vote. Sign this petition and click through to call your Senators and Representative TODAY!