Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

September 27, 2016

      An approximate 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States of America. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are several categories under which a person can apply to become a naturalized United States citizen. However, the process is lengthy, expensive and can be uncertain for the applicants (USCIS, 2015).

      Current immigration law offers four main ways to legally immigrate to the U.S.  1. Family-based immigration.  A legal, qualified family member in the United States can seek permission (by petition) to bring in certain eligible foreign-born family members.  U.S. citizens can petition for “green cards” for their spouses, parents, children, and siblings.  Legal Permanent Residents (green-card holders) can petition for their spouses and unmarried children. No other family relationships qualify. 2. Employment-based immigration.  High-skilled professionals who wish to come to the United States on an employment-based visa, and who fit into one of the employment categories, must have a job offer in the United States and an employer willing to sponsor him or her – a process that can be very expensive and time consuming. 3.Humanitarian-based immigration. Each year the U.S. government provides protection within U.S. borders to a limited number of persons who are fleeing persecution in their homelands.  These individuals must prove that they have a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on their race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin. 4.Other.There are other, limited ways that people may obtain a green card, such as the diversity lottery. However, these mechanisms are highly restrictive and limited to extremely small groups of qualified individuals.

       Research indicates that nearly two million people of the 12 million undocumented in the country were under the age of 16 when they entered the nation. These children were raised in the United States and are now in a legal and social predicament. In a research article by Nevins, (2012) it is brought to attention the struggles faced by childhood arrivals, also known as DREAMERS, as this population group has become college and job-age ready. Due to migratory status they do not qualify for healthcare insurance, access to most scholarships to further education and cannot work legally.  However, a light at the end of the tunnel seemed to flicker, in the summer of 2012, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Obama administration announced that, under administrative authority, the nation’s DREAMERS would be granted deferred action (is a discretionary, limited immigration benefit by DHS. It can be granted to individuals who are in removal proceedings, who have final orders of removal, or who have never been in removal proceedings) if they meet specific criteria (Nevins, 2012). Exactly what is DACA and how does it impact the nation’s undocumented DREAMERS?
       The topic at hand has been polemic and generated a lot of conversation in the public. To this day it continues to be a tense floor debate between the Republican and Democratic parties (Dumain, 2014).  Government officials have not yet reached an agreement in regards to the situation. Clearly many factors contribute to the delay of a concrete proposal that provides equitable opportunity and is sensitive to the needs of “Dreamers”.

        In 2001, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act ("DREAM Act"), immigration reform was proposed. Nine years later, after passing the House and presidential approval the bill eventually was stalled by the Senate. The DREAM Act would have granted undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, met specific criteria an opportunity to legalize their status and eventually become naturalized citizens of this country (Warley, 2012). The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a reflection of the DREAM Act. Under this policy individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, can prove continuous presence in the country for the past five years or more, do not pose a threat to national security and public safety, have graduated high school or have higher education qualify for deferral proceedings against them. If they meet the criteria they obtain a three-year work authorization permit which can be renewed (Warley, 2012). However, this policy does not grant path to permanent residency or naturalization and poses yet other challenges for youth under this category (DACA, 2013).

     There are more than one million immigrants who are considered childhood arrivals out of which approximately 800, 000 are eligible for deferred deportation proceedings under DACA (Gardezi, 2012). The application cost is $465.00 without an option to fee waivers (DACA, 2013). As of March 2013, nearly 500, 000 applications were filed, but only half were approved. Unfortunately, the applications that are rejected cannot be formally appealed, because of a lack of due process. However, the applicant may file again and pay the application fees again if they wish to restart the process (Nevins, 2012).

      Applicants across the nation, whose cases were approved, concur that since they received protective status their situation is less difficult. They are able to obtain a driver’s license, get a job in their field of study, open bank accounts, pursue higher education and feel included in their communities. There are diverse perspectives in regards to the provision of permanent, lawful, migratory status for DACA recipients. Some argue that undocumented children are here to foment political unrest and they should not be granted any favors because they are not citizens. Others view their situation beyond their control because they were brought to this country while they were children. Those on their behalf propose that DREAMERS are given an opportunity to reach their aspirations in a nation they consider home.

 

Maria D. Santos

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