August 15 2013 marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program otherwise known as DACA. DACA was launched by the Obama Administration as a solely executive branch action, meaning it was created by regulation and policy and not by a statute which requires Congressional action. As such, DACA was set up to assist the DREAMers – those undocumented youth waiting for Congress to create a path for citizenship which has never come to fruition. The Obama Administration attempted to alleviate some of the pain for undocumented youth by allowing them to apply for DACA.
DACA is not a path to citizenship, but an opportunity to get into a lawful status and obtain work authorization and limited international travel rights. It is applicable to those who were present in the US on June 15, 2012, are age 30 or under as of the same date, are in school currently or graduated from high school, have had physical presence in the US from June 15, 2007 – June 15 2012 (and up to filing), entered the US before the age of 16, and have had no significant misdemeanors or prior deportations.
What has happened over the past year? DACA was launched a year ago with much excitement and energy by both the Obama Administration and the undocumented community and its supporters. Many say the program has been a success, with many undocumented youth getting social security cards, work cards and drivers licenses which are key to functioning in the US. An additional bonus is in-state tuition for many who have been focusing on and dreaming for advanced education. The approval rates according to USCIS are also positive – approximately 80% as of August 2013.
On the other hand, others cite a poor participation rate – as of August 13, 2013, 567,563 people have applied out of an estimated 2-3 million. Some are also frustrated with the arbitrary nature of what counts as “disqualifying misdemeanors,” allowing for possession of marijuana or other drugs to be less egregious than a one-time DUI. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many are just too afraid to apply or don’t understand the process clearly enough to apply.
USCIS continues to try to get the word out. For instance, it just released a free app called “Pocket DACA”, available for download from the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. It is a self-screening tool for DACA applicants to understand their eligibility and provides a searchable directory of listings for immigration legal services providers, including non-profit groups, in all 50 states.
While DACA is not perfect, it is positive step for thousands who have applied and gotten approved. If you need further information on Deferred Action, you should call Catherine Brown at 303-322-2117 to set up a consultation.