Despite lawsuit, DACA program still intact and accepting applications

DREAMers may get two years of deferred action and work authorization.

It has been confusing to follow a series of legal maneuvers on the national stage concerning the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program that defers government action to deport successful applicants for two years, along with granting work authorization during that time, subject to renewal.

DACA applies to certain younger undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country as children and have remained free of serious crime while pursuing education or serving in the military. This population is also sometimes referred to as the DREAMers.

Administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as USCIS, the main government agency that enforces immigration laws, DACA began taking applications in mid-2012. In late 2014, President Barack Obama took executive action to expand program eligibility and lengthen the period of deferment from prosecution to three years (as well as introduce a similar program for undocumented immigrant parents of citizens and lawful permanent residents known as DAPA).

Almost immediately, the president's executive action was challenged in federal court by a coalition of states. A U.S. District Court judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction ordering the expanded DACA and DAPA programs not be administered pending resolution of the case. The legality of the injunction is tied up on appeal and some commentators feel a decision will not be issued until after the president leaves office.

In the meantime, the original DACA program that provides two years of relief still continues to accept initial and renewal applications. The USCIS website lays out the details of the program, but in summary, the basic qualifications are:

  • Under 31 on June 15, 2012
  • Came to U.S. before 16
  • Continuous U.S. residence since June 15, 2007
  • Physical presence in U.S. on June 15, 2012, and on day of DACA application
  • No lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • In school, graduated or obtained high school certificate of completion or GED; or honorable discharge from U.S. military
  • Not convicted of felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, and not a national security or public safety threat

Approval for DACA does not grant lawful status, rather a deferred action on removal for two years, along with work authorization during that time, subject to remaining eligible. The agency recommends submitting a renewal application at least four months before the two-year period expires.

It is smart to speak with an immigration attorney about DACA eligibility and for help with the application or renewal. While the qualifications sound clear, actual eligibility can be legally complicated. Some may be surprised to learn that they qualify.

The immigration lawyers of Ramos Immigration Law have offices in Aurora and Longmont, Colorado, and assist clients with DACA and other immigration matters.