What Exactly is the 2012 DACA Immigration Law?

The DACA or the Deferred Act or Childhood Arrivals was passed on June 15, 2012 to assist with over 700,000 illegal current and former immigrant children that were currently residing in the U.S. The purpose of this law was to prevent immigrant children and young adults from facing deportation that would have ultimately resulted in many of them becoming orphans or displaced youth back into their countries with or without their parents or other adult family members. In order for the children or young adults to receive temporary protection from being deported, the families could apply for the DACA law provisions.

The application approval process granted undocumented children and young adults rights to remain in the U.S. and eventually be eligible to apply for worker permits, driver’s license, and social security benefits. Once their deportment relief window had expired, the immigrants would be eligible for a renewal process. It is important to note that an individual DACA status could be revoked at any time based on the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security or DHS. While an application may be denied for any reason, applicants can reapply and pay the application fee again at any time. At this time, the application fee for the DACA application is $465 per family. Appeals based on ineligibility are not permitted.

Who Qualifies for the 2012 DACA Immigration Law?

The initial DACA law exclusively targets any immigrant that entered the U.S. at age 16 or younger, but has to be under the age of 31 or younger by no later than June 15, 2012. Once they arrive, they have to have been a resident for at least five years without any acceptable breaks from the country beginning on June 15, 2007. The immigrant must have come to the U.S. without proper processing which includes an inspection, and/or is no longer eligible for a lawful visa standing prior to June 15, 2012. As for education requirements, the immigrants must currently be enrolled in an approved school, received a high diploma or GED, or served time in the armed forces. There cannot not be any evidence of criminal activity that has resulting conviction of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, nor pose any sort of security risk. For this reason, all applicants undergo a thorough biographic background clearance check.

Once an individual is granted the DACA status, it is imperative that they understand what they are not permitted to do. There are several stipulations that could cause an immigrant to immediately lose their DACA protection. Traveling outside the U.S. borders without parole is grounds for an investigation that could lead to one losing their DACA rights. Immigrants with DACA status are only allowed to travel outside the U.S. for educational, humanitarian, and employment related occurrences. These motives to leave the U.S. must still be preapproved by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

What Other Legislation Could Support DACA Immigration?

In June of 2014, the initial DACA immigration law was in need of renewal and reform. In order to continue offering protection to current and incoming young immigrants those were entering the U.S., special provisions have been enacted to allow for the children and young adults to either renew their DACA statuses or continue applying for initial deportation protection. Unlike 2012, the numbers of undocumented children and young adult immigrants are now well over 2 million people and growing. In May of 2011, the development of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act would have served to provide more opportunities of immigrant children and young adults that have a stronger connection the American culture as they have lived in the country long enough that English is considered their primary language.

The DREAM Act sought to make the transition into higher education and the workforce much smoother by pushing incentives that would encourage high graduation, post-secondary education, and better opportunities for economic success for the vast growing number of young immigrants. At this time, the DREAM ACT legislation has not earned enough political support to become law. Without such legislation in place, many of the undocumented young adult and children immigrants not only face a long and difficult road to citizenship status, they also are more likely to remain in impoverished situations that could become more expensive with regards to child welfare services.

What are Some Barriers to the 2012 DACA Immigration Laws?

There are several barriers for immigrants with regards to the DACA laws. The actual application itself is written in small print with language that may very difficult for individuals and families where English is a Second Language or extremely limited to understand. For many who can speak English, that does imply that they would also be literate in English. Since this a very serious legal process, families and individual immigrants are strongly recommended to have a lawyer represent them and explain the process. This could quickly become a very expensive process along with the costly application fee.

Many immigrants fear that taking the risk with DACA can also make them more vulnerable to being deported. This is a great concern for those immigrants that do not meet the DACA criteria. Consequentially, even though more individuals would benefit from this law, fear for deportation keeps them becoming legally responsible for being a U.S. resident.

Processing the large amount of applicants and their paperwork has proven to be a very complex procedure that can take longer than initially expected by the administration. Since some of the applicants were already in the process of being removed from the country, they may find that it is nearly impossible to expedite their acceptance into the program to do the large influx of new and renewal applicants.

As one could imagine, this is now become a seriously multifaceted undertaking as there are now an estimated 2.1 million illegal immigrants who are children and youth in the U.S. since the passing of the DACA law. While many initially took advantage of the provisions and submitted applications to temporary obtain relief from the threat of deportation, there are still hundreds of thousands that need assistance. The greatest barriers to preserving this act are political indifferences with regards to how it will be maintained and funded.

Suggestions for Reforming the 2012 DACA Immigration Law

Immigration advocacy groups that support government intervention for the young illegal immigrants seeking to remain in the U.S. have expressed a growing concern with the cultural, language, and legal logistics offered and instituted by DACA. Many of the illegal immigrants lack the understanding of the DACA laws and its intended purpose to temporarily allow their children to stay in the country. While most of the immigrants are willing to apply for the process if they have the monetary resources, their inability to follow up and/or meet the expectations of their status in the meantime can often be confusing due to misinterpretation of the law and language barriers. Therefore, advocates of the DACA law would like to see a bigger push with regards to interpreters and case managers who can effectively ensure that the immigrants fully understands the purpose of the DACA and what to do during the process and immediately upon acceptance.

There also tends be a great deal of confusion as to which department the immigrants should apply to for their DACA rights. The Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement serve two entirely different purposes when dealing with immigrants. The DACA law is overseen and directed by the Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are responsible for deporting illegal immigrants back to their homeland. Because of this misguided confusion, some of the immigrants are fearful and distrustful of providing any personal information to the government and choose to remain undocumented with their illegal standing. One of the greatest misunderstandings around the 2012 DACA laws has to do with immigrants believing they are protected from deportation and that this will lead to citizenship in the U.S. Furthermore, immigration advocacy groups want to make sure the young immigrants and their families fully understand that this is only a temporary solution that can be retracted at any time.

It is obvious that immigration will continue to be a concern for both U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants who seek improve their lives and provide greater opportunities for their families. While the DACA has proven to offer some success and postpone immediate government enforced deployment, it is an expensive temporary solution to a much more complex system as to how the U.S. treats and processes individuals seeking greater chances for a more sustainable quality of life. One cannot ignore the implications how the next level of government intervention will play in the lives of the illegal immigrants’ and their children.

In conclusion, the DACA administration is continuing to provide temporary deportation relief to illegal children and young adult immigrants to allow for legal stability.

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Beeraj Patel, Esq.

Partner at KPPB Law
Beeraj Patel's philosophy is simple - make it easy for talented and ambitious individuals to have access to immigration materials so that they can make the choice which is right for them.
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