How Does U.S. Law Define DACA?

To define DACA, it is an immigration program available to certain types of immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program helps temporarily protect children who came to the U.S. without legal status from deportation.

Define DACA

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, helps children who came to the country illegally as children by enabling them to gain employment, obtain a social security number, and acquire a driver’s license. 

For DACA applicants to be eligible for this program, they need to meet certain criteria. Specifically, they must:

  • Have entered the country illegally before their 16th birthday
  • Have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012
  • Have lived as residents in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
  • Have been physically present in the country on June 12, 2012, and upon requesting permission to apply for the DACA program
  • Have a high school degree or GED, be in school, or have received honorable discharge from the U.S. military
  • Have been unlawful residents on June 15, 2012

In addition, applicants for DACA must not have a criminal conviction involving a serious misdemeanor or felony or three or more misdemeanors on their record. Any individuals whom the government deems a public safety or national security risk will also be ineligible.

How Do You Apply for Deferred Action?

After you understand how to define DACA, the process of applying begins with filing the right forms. One form you will need to complete is Form I-821D Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. You must also file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization Document. Keep in mind that there are fees in place for submitting these forms.

The next step will be to schedule a biometrics appointment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). During this appointment, USCIS officers will take your fingerprints and a photo. They will also ask you to sign your name. Officers then cross-check this data with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database of non-citizens and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal database.

You will need to provide the right supporting documents to USCIS officers when applying for the DACA program. This documentation will include proof of identity, proof of residency, and more. If you need assistance with the application process and preparing all supporting documents, Chicago immigration legal services attorneys may be able to help you. 

How the DREAM Act of 2021 Works

Going beyond deferred action is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The immigrants who fall under the protection of this particular act are known as Dreamers. 

A Dreamer is any young undocumented immigrant who entered the U.S. as a child. Millions of Dreamers live in the U.S. and don’t benefit from the same legal rights and permissions as natural-born U.S. citizens. The U.S. government first proposed the DREAM Act in 2001, but to this day it is still undergoing voting to put it into law. 

While DACA eventually came along to give young immigrants the chance to avoid deportation and live and work legally in the U.S., the DREAM Act has yet to pass through Congress. If passed into law, the DREAM Act would go farther than DACA by providing even more protections for immigrants. It would help Dreamers become legal permanent residents and, eventually, citizens. Meanwhile, DACA provides immigrants with the opportunity to defer action while requiring individuals to renew periodically.

Eventually, the DREAM Act could become a valid piece of legislation that gives Dreamers more protection than DACA. With a green card obtained through the DREAM Act, Dreamers would never need to renew their status. Becoming citizens through this law would also help protect them from deportation for the rest of their lives. In addition, having a green card would allow Dreamers to sponsor their immigrant family members to help them obtain LPR status or get certain non-immigrant visas.

What the DREAM Act of 2021 could mean for you as an immigrant in the end is the chance to avoid the need for deferred action entirely as you gain LPR or citizen status. 

What Is the Immigration and Nationality Act?

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the body of law that dictates immigration policy in the U.S. It’s the Act that has enabled many immigrants to obtain visas across a range of categories and continues to do so. 

The evolution of the Immigration and Nationality Act has been long and met with controversy. While many politicians have fought for more rights for immigrants, others have worked to develop more restrictions and maintain existing ones. It has seen different versions over the years since the 19th century as more immigrants entered the U.S. and sought rights along with citizenship.

The most recent version of the Immigration and Nationality Act is the INA of 1965, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act. The biggest change seen with this iteration of the act was an increase in the number of people who could immigrate from countries outside of Western Europe. It significantly changed the future of immigration in the U.S. by enabling immigrants from all over the world to enter the country legally and obtain LPR status and citizenship.

The INA was instrumental in paving the way for immigrants in the future to live and work in the U.S. legally. The DREAM Act and DACA program has resulted in part from the passing of the INA and subsequent legislation.

The Future of Immigration Law in the U.S.

Although the DACA program gives young immigrants the chance to avoid deportation through certain protections, the DREAM Act would help even more immigrants who wish to enjoy life in America.

An immigration attorney may be able to help you learn more about what your options are if you wish to apply for DACA or other opportunities. A lawyer may also be able to provide some guidance during the application process to help ensure you submit all necessary forms and collect the appropriate supporting documents.