On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a new initiative titled “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) which addresses enforcement action against undocumented aliens. DACA provides that certain undocumented aliens who came to the United States as children and meet other specific criteria can request “deferred action” for a period of two years so that they can avoid deportation and obtain a work permit. Two months later, on August 15, 2012, specific forms were released, fees were set and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting DACA applications.
The Obama administration explained that, although an unprecedented number of undocumented aliens have been deported over the past three years, the Department of Homeland Security has been focusing its enforcement resources on deporting individuals who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, such as violent criminals and felons. The DACA initiative furthers this mission by ensuring that immigration enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases, such as undocumented aliens who were brought to the United States as children.
The following criteria must be met for an individual’s DACA application to be approved:
• Under age 31 as of June 15, 2012;
• Came to United States before 16th birthday;
• Over age 15 (unless in removal proceedings);
• Lived continuously in the United States for the last five years;
• Came to the United States unlawfully or lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012;
• Currently in school, has graduated from high school, earned a GED or was honorably discharged from Coast Guard or military; and
• No significant criminal history.
If the USCIS determines that the application is complete, an appointment is scheduled for the individual to be fingerprinted. Then, the USCIS does a criminal background check to confirm that the individual is not barred from DACA due to criminal history.
The DACA application process involves completing USCIS forms, providing documents to prove all criteria are met, and paying a $465 filing fee.
Although being approved in DACA does not provide legal status or offer a path to citizenship, approved individuals will not be deported and will obtain a work permit. The DACA benefits, unless revoked by the government, will be good for two years and then may be renewed.