Attention DACA Applicants: There May Be Hope Yet

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As of the beginning of 2021, over 170 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants have been approved by the federal government, giving many other applicants hope. The approved applicants were among those who applied for the Obama-era program before the Trump administration ended it in 2017.

What a New DHS Report Reveals

In early January, a report submitted to Brooklyn federal court by the Department of Homeland Security disclosed the approval of 171 new DACA applications taking place from November 14 to the end of 2020. Meanwhile, the DHS denied another 121 applications and rejected 369. The report also revealed that a total of 2,713 applications were submitted awaiting approval, denial, or rejection.

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that Trump was in violation of federal law when ending the DACA program in 2017. Regardless, Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf stated that the Trump administration would both cease accepting new applications and shorten renewals from two years to one.

Later in the year, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis reasoned that Trump’s cessation of the DACA program was unconstitutional and ordered the federal government to begin accepting DACA applications that entered the system before the program ended.

In addition, Garaufis argued that Wolf took his position through illicit means and ordered the reinstatement of the two-year renewals. Garaufis also ordered DHS to report the number of new applicants who were rejected throughout the year from June to December. The released report revealed that 4,383 applications were rejected during that period.

Approved Renewals Along with New Applications

In light of the DHS report, it was revealed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch of the department approved 61,844 renewals within the last six weeks of 2020. However, the USCIS also denied 326 applications and rejected another 2,842 in that time.

The Background of the DACA Program

The DACA program began in 2012 when the Obama administration put it in place to protect approximately 800,000 young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children. While the program didn’t grant these children, also known as DREAMers, official legal status or a direct path to U.S. citizenship with their families, it enabled them to make a living in the U.S. Specifically, the program allowed DREAMers to apply for social security numbers, work permits, and driver’s licenses.

Early on, the Trump administration attempted to dismantle the DACA program, ending it in 2017.

Efforts to Reinstate the DACA Program After the Trump Era

With President Joe Biden in office, the new administration has pledged to reinstate the DACA program in January. This is one of many attempts to reverse Trump-era policies that Biden promised to enact. However, with the reinstatement of the DACA program, Congress would still need to approve permanent legal status and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who wish to become naturalized citizens.

What Is Required to Apply for DACA?

If people were unable to apply for the DACA program during Trump’s presidency, they may be able to apply in the near future with Biden’s reinstatement. If new applicants want to qualify, there are several criteria that they will need to meet. These requirements include:

  • Unlawful entry into the U.S. before the age of 16
  • Aged 30 or younger on June 15, 2012, (i.e. born on June 16, 1981, or later)
  • Did not have any lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Were physically within the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and when requesting consideration for DACA through USCIS
  • Have lived in the U.S. and no other country since June 15, 2007

Other requirements include completion of high school or a GED program, honorable discharge from the U.S., armed forces, or current enrollment in a U.S. school. Applicants must not have felony convictions or serious misdemeanors, nor can they have three or more other misdemeanors.

When applying for the DACA program, it’s necessary to have all required supporting documents present. Documents include proof of identity in the form of a state-issued ID, passport, military or school ID, or birth certificate. Applicants must also have proof of entry into the U.S. before the age of 16, which may include a stamped passport, INS documents, Form I-94, or any other travel, school, hospital, or medical records. 

Other supporting documents include proof of presence in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, proof of no lawful status on June 15, 2012, documents that prove brief and innocent trips outside of the U.S. since 2007, and proof of current or previous education.

New applicants can visit the USCIS website for additional information about requirements and how to apply if and when the program is reinstated. The DHS report and a new presidential era leave many young immigrants hoping for a brighter future.