DACA Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an American immigration policy established by the Obama administration in June 2012. DACA allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. Approximately 800,000 such young people (referred to as “Dreamers” after the DREAM Act) were enrolled in the program as of 2017.
In November 2014, President Barack Obama attempted to expand DACA to cover additional immigrants, but multiple states sued to prevent implementation of the expansion and it was ultimately blocked by the courts. The United States Department of Homeland Security rescinded the expansion on June 16, 2017, while continuing to review the existence of the DACA program as a whole. On September 5, 2017, DACA was rescinded by the Trump administration, but implementation was delayed six months to give Congress time to come up with a solution for the population that was previously eligible for DACA.
To be eligible, illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship, nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.
In August 2012, the Migration Policy Institute estimated that as many as 1.76 million people could be eligible for DACA. Of those, 28% were under 15 and would have to wait until reaching that age to apply. In addition, roughly 20% did not meet any of the education criteria, but could become eligible by enrolling in a program before submitting their application. 74% of the eligible population was born in Mexico or Central America. Smaller proportions came from Caribbean and South America (11%), Asia (9%), and the rest of the world (6%).
To qualify for DACA, applicants must meet the following major requirements, although meeting them does not guarantee approval:
Came to the United States before their 16th birthday
Have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007
Were under age 31 on June 15, 2012 (i.e., born on June 16, 1981 or after)
Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
Have completed high school or a GED, have been honorably discharged from the armed forces, or are enrolled in school
Have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
To show proof of qualification (verify these requirements), applicants must submit three forms; I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and I-765WS, Worksheet, as well as supporting documentation.
In addition to the $495 application fee, if a DACA qualifying illegal immigrant wants to travel abroad there is an additional fee and application requirement.
Form I-131 Application Type D*, with a fee of $575 needs to be submitted to USCIS.
(It should be noted Form I-131 must also be submitted by anyone that applies for a “Green Card” or other residency option regardless of how they arrived upon US soil).
To receive advance parole one must travel abroad for the sole purpose of an educational, employment, or humanitarian purposes. This must be indicated on the Form I-131 as described below:
Educational purposes, such as studying abroad;
Employment purposes, such as overseas positions, interviews, training, or meetings with clients; or
Humanitarian purposes, such as travel for medical reasons, attend funeral services for a family member, or visit a sick relative.
Research shows that DACA increased the wages and labor force participation of DACA-eligible immigrants,reduced the number of unauthorized immigrant households living in poverty, and increased the mental health outcomes for DACA-eligible immigrants and their children. There are no known major adverse impacts from DACA on native-born workers, while some economists say that DACA benefits the U.S. economy. There is no evidence that DACA-eligible individuals commit crimes at a higher rate than natives.
What exactly is DACA?
President Barack Obama created DACA through a 2012 executive order. The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.
Who has signed up?
As many as 800,000 so-called Dreamers have applied to join the initiative since its inception. Immigration rights advocates have said some 200,000 more have sought DACA protection since Donald Trump became president. Some experts have said the program could end up covering 1.3 million young people if it were allowed to continue. Requests for renewals are now being filed at the rate of about 8,000 a week.
Why are they called ‘Dreamers’?
DACA was a compromise created by the Obama administration after Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
DREAM would have offered those who came to the U.S. illegally as children the opportunity to potentially gain permanent legal residency. The act was first introduced in August 2001 by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. It has resurfaced several times, always failing to get through Congress.
What did Trump decide to do?
The Trump administration, after days of speculation, announced Tuesday it will end DACA. “I’m here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Sessions announced, calling the program unconstitutional and criticizing it as “unilateral executive amnesty.”
No new applications for the program will be accepted, Sessions said. The administration will allow DACA recipients with a work permit set to expire before March 5, 2018, the opportunity to apply for a two-year renewal.
What happens next?
The administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a fix before the federal government officially stops renewing permits for current DACA recipients.
Why should Indians care?
The repeal of DACA has also been unequivocally condemned by various Indian-American lawmakers. According to the non-profit organisation SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), which promotes civil rights for south Asian immigrants in the US, approximately 2,40,000 undocumented Indians were living in the US in 2011, making India seventh highest country of origin for undocumented individuals in the United States.
“Over 27,000 Asian Americans, including 5,500 Indians and Pakistanis, have already received DACA. An additional estimated 17,000 individuals from India and 6,000 from Pakistan respectively are eligible for DACA, placing India in the top ten countries for DACA eligibility,” a press statement released by the organisation stated. As per this estimate, the number of young unauthorized immigrants from India covered or eligible under DACA exceeds 20,000.
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