Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

High School Graduate Dreamer...Almost a Dream

There are more students living illegally in the United States than you may at first suspect. Many have lived here most of their lives and consider the United States home. While Congress continues debating immigration reform, you may be wondering whether you should be applying for “Dreamer” benefits.  

First, it is important to note that the Dream Act has not been passed. This is the law which would have allowed persons called "dreamers" who came into the United States illegally as minors, to stay in the U.S. provided they met certain other requirements.

Second, what is currently in effect instead of the Dream Act is “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA for short. It is important to note that this gives no permanent benefit and is not a path to citizenship. Rather, the Department of Homeland Security in its discretion will “defer action” to some later date. It is unknown what will happen when the DHS decides to take action. So what do you get and should you apply?

For those who qualify and are able to get deferred action, the rewards are limited but important. Most prominently, the award comes with a guarantee that the immigrant will not be deported for two years – unless of course they run afoul of the law in some other way. Recipients will also be allowed to work in the U.S. and travel abroad with advanced permission. In Florida, but not in all states, recipients will also be allowed to get a driver’s license. You qualify for Deferred Action if you can prove:

* You entered the United States before age 16.
* You were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and were under 31 years old on that date.
* You have no criminal history (One or two misdemeanors may not disqualify you)
* You have been in the United States at least 5 continuous years
* You have a high school degree or equivalent, are in school, or you have served in the military and were honorably discharged.

If you qualify for deferred action, you will be immune from deportation for two years and be able to apply for a work permit.These benefits can be renewed in two year increments and there is currently no limit on how many times these benefits can be renewed.

Any serious criminal offense will disqualify you as will more than two misdemeanors. DUI is considered a serious offense, so be very careful if you have any criminal history. There are forms to fill out and fees to pay. Current government fees total $465. Applicants with borderline cases are advised to consult an attorney.

Sound good? Well, yes—maybe. Remember that this is “deferred action.” No permanent benefits are offered. For those who have never been in trouble with the law and have lived under the radar, applying for DACA is giving a big shout out to DHS saying, “Here I am.” Scary when you consider that if your petition is not approved, you could get deported, and even if it is approved, there is no telling what will happen in two years. The prevailing wisdom is to get as many people signed up as possible because even if the program does not get renewed, well, ‘they can’t just deport everyone”—or can they?

So, should you apply? That depends. Each case is different. There are no guarantees. There is no clear light at the end of the tunnel. Your best bet is to review your case with an immigration attorney who can best advise you. There have been many applicants who have been happily surprised  to find out after consulting with an immigration attorney,  that they qualified for a different more secure immigration benefit.

In deciding whether to apply for DACA then, remember that each case is different and only an experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate the murky waters of immigration law to find the best solution in your specific case. If you think you may qualify for deferred action, please call us to see how we can help you.