DACA: What now?

Your guess is as good as mine.  Last Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the President, through Attorney General Sessions, announced that the DACA program under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being rescinded effective the very same day.   Since its implementation more than 5 years ago (June 15, 2012), a lot of people still do not know about it or for whom it exists.   Immigrants, documented or not, want clarity if the grand announcement on ‘DACA rescission’ will impact their status.

DACA, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”, was an administrative grant by the US government (thru President Obama) to some young people who were unaware that they entered this country illegally as children.  It was not for everyone. In order to qualify, the applicant (a) should have been here when under 16 years of age; (b) 31 years old on June 15, 2012; and (c) went to U.S. schools and earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate.  DACA allowed those qualified to remain in the U.S. and not be subject to deportation for the time being.  How long?  Only as long as the DACA grant is in place.

The Obama administration believed that these children who are mostly U.S.-educated and trained  should be considered assets of this nation,  illegal status notwithstanding   But only Congress (not the Office of the President) can grant  lawful immigration status with  a pathway to citizenship so President Obama utilized a DHS policy program already in existence, i.e., exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” on low priority cases (aliens who are not criminals), to put on hold the removal of these children.  DACA recipients, like other “deferred action” cases, such as the “Temporary Protective Status” (TPS granted to defer removal of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, etc.) and Cuban parolees, can stay and work in the United States.  The work permit allowed them to obtain a social security number, be ‘registered in the system’ properly and acquire a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A valid work permit is a prerequisite for employment and must be renewed.  DMV will not re-issue a valid driver’s license without a valid work permit.   The 09/05/2017 rescission Memo directs that DACA applications and advance paroles (travel permit applications relative to DACA) filed on 09/05/2017 and onwards will be rejected.  DACA applications and renewals filed prior to this date will be adjudicated, but its corresponding advance parole applications will be closed and the fees returned; only advance parole/s already approved will be honored.  DACA already in place will be recognized only until its expiration date and will not be renewed.  Further, renewal applications covering the period between 09/05/2017 and 03/05/2018 and which applications have been accepted as of 10/05/2017, can still be adjudicated.  A blanket statement contained in the said Memo emphasized that the DHS “(W)ill continue to exercise its discretionary authority to terminate or deny deferred action at any time when immigration officials determine termination or denial of deferred action is appropriate.”  A clear warning to those with issued DACA or advance parole to not cross that line nor defy any convention or custom because you never know what’s coming.

Five years ago when the DACA was in its inception even qualified recipients were wary.  And rightly so.  The application forms contain extensive information about family, all places of residence since day one in the U.S., among others.  They are definitely easier to find and deport compared to those illegals who should be removed from the United States but cannot be tracked as efficiently.  On the other hand, if THE TWEET is sincere, the tide might turn in their favor and their existing DACA status is proof of their integrity. Continued advocacy for a Congressional grant of a status that could provide a smooth transition to a path to U.S. citizenship is in order.  Are the majority of our representatives and senators in Congress listening?

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states. Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to www.mrstubylaw.com for any questions on this article.

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