On August 15 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program 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 was expanded by President Obama on November 20, 2014 in order to eliminate the age limit and move up the continuous residence date to January 1, 2010 until present. This should allow more individuals to be eligible. This NEW expansion is supposed to be effective by February 20, 2014.
DACA is not a path to citizenship, but an opportunity to get into a lawful status and obtain work authorization, driver’s license, and limited international travel rights. It also would prevent deportation. 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 worse offenses and are not a threat to public safety.
If granted, deferred status is now for a 3-year period under the new Executive Action announcment of November 20, 2014, but can be renewed indefinitely.
Denver and Boulder lawyer Catherine Brown has much experience working with the DREAMERS and undocumented youth whether you are 16 or 45, you may be eligible for this stop-gap measure that stops deportation and allows undocumented and illegal persons in Colorado to obtain work authorization.
After DACA – What Next?
Domestic and International Travel
Once someone is granted Deferred Action status, they are prevented from being deported and are eligible for work and travel privileges. If you have your original I-821D approval notice, domestic travel should not be threatening as you cannot be arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for being in the US illegally.
International travel is a trickier issue. The program allows DACA approved persons to apply for Advance Parole in order to internationally travel, so long as you have a humanitarian, education or work purpose. You must apply on Form I-131 Application for Travel Document. You must have this application approved before you can travel internationally. Even if approved, there could be serious risks associated with international travel so you should always seek legal advice from a licensed immigration attorney like Catherine Brown, before actually traveling. For instance, if you have previously been deported or removed from the US internally or at the border you must reopen your case with EOIR to ask for administrative closure of your removal proceedings. Failure to do could result in being barred from re-entering the US. There also has not been clear guidance issued from USCIS on how to treat those traveling on Advance Parole with unlawful presence (illegal time in the US) and whether one triggers a 3- or 10-year bar upon re-entry. However, US Customs and Border Patrol has stated that such travel will not be considered a trigger to these bars. Again, I would recommend speaking to a competent immigration lawyer on this topic as it is in a state of change.
Your Advance Parole document will have a limited time frame on it so be sure to review the validity dates if you do decide to travel internationally.
Some DACA approved folks are wondering how to now provide their new social security card that is valid to their employer if they used to use a fake social security number. Again, you should speak to an immigration attorney about this subject. A US employer is required to verify that its workforce is authorized to work in the US, so if it comes to their attention that someone is working for them with a false social security number or name, the recommended action would be to terminate that employee because of the economic and criminal consequences that can take place for knowingly hiring illegal workers.
Your new social security number needs to be updated on a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. You may just ask your employer if you can update this form. If they question or deny this opportunity, then I recommend seeking immigration counsel before talking further.
Your employer verifies its workforce using a Form I-9. A guide is provided to employers on DACA specific folks, but it’s still inconsistent. In any event, this form may arise in conversation because your social security number has changed and it is beneficial for your US employer to update their records with your correct Social.
If your employer wants to terminate you because you used a fake name/social security number, they may do so but they cannot do so in a discriminatory way. If you believe discrimination is occurring to you or at your work place, you should seek immigration advice about your rights.
Social Security Number, Taxes and Credit History
Once you receive your work authorization card you can then obtain a social security number from the Social Security Administration Office (SSA) You will need to show the employment authorization card AND original passport or birth certificate – no copies. You must apply IN PERSON the first time. Please refer to your local phone directories for one closest to you.
If you did not file taxes previously, you should definitely file US and state income taxes after obtaining a valid social security number if you earn income or have assets that earn income. If you filed with an ITIN number, it may be possible to transfer your SSA earnings to your new social security number. You also should rescind your ITIN number with the IRS because you cannot use both an ITIN and a Social Security Number. To do these things, send a letter asking to rescind the ITIN to:
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
Enclose the copies of your ITIN and SSN. You will then receive a letter from the IRS confirming that your ITIN was revoked and to use your new SSN for all tax purposes.
To correct your credit history, you need to contact all three credit bureaus and ask them to transfer your credit history. To do so, you have to physically mail letters to all three bureaus with your request and identifying information. Additionally, you have to reach out to your financial institutions and ask them to update their records to reflect your new SSN. Contact any banks or financial institutions that you have accounts with and ask them to replace the ITIN on your account with your new SSN. Write and send three separate letters to the three different credit bureaus, include the relevant documents that the form letters indicate you are sending. The three addresses for the bureaus are as follows: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
State Driver’s License
You are also eligible to obtain your valid drivers’ license. You obtain these through the state Department of Motor Vehicles office (DMV) nearest you. Your license will be valid for as long as your status. In general, these are the eligibility criteria: a Social Security number (SSN), evidence establishing lawful or authorized presence in the U.S., identity and date of birth, and state residency. States use various approaches in implementing these requirements, including whether exceptions or alternative documents are permissible. State departments of motor vehicles often have considerable discretion in determining which documents must be presented.
In Colorado, you will need your work authorization card, your passport or birth certificate, proof of current residence AND also your Social Security Card. Proof of residence can include one of these items: Utility bill, Credit card statement, student ID or bill, Pay stub or earnings statement, Rent receipt, Telephone bill, Transcript or report card from an accredited school, Bank statement, Mortgage document, Tax document, Homeowners/renter’s insurance policy, Vehicle registration. There have been some Colorado applicants under 18 who have had issues getting drivers licenses due to requirement of parents’ being in lawful status for insurance purposes. This should be challenged and I encourage you to bring it my attention if this happens.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, officials in at least 45 states (AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, ID, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NV, NH, NM, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WY) have confirmed that DACA recipients are eligible for licenses or have been issuing licenses to people in this group. Five of these states (NM, WA, UT, IL, and soon CO) issue driver’s licenses or driver’s privilege cards to eligible applicants regardless of their status.
By contrast, the governor or other state officials in only 2 states (AZ, NE) announced that DACA recipients will not be eligible for a driver’s license. Arizona did this by creating — either formally or informally — special rules for DACA recipients.
For more information about applying for Deferred Action, DACA, or renewing Deferred Action or DACA in Colorado, please contact Boulder attorney and lawyer Catherine Brown at 303-322-2117.