A little more than two years after President Barack Obama issued an executive action to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, he expanded the program for hundreds of thousands of additional undocumented immigrants to receive a temporary stay in the U.S.
DACA, which has deferred more than 500,000 undocumented immigrant youths from deportation in 2012, allowed recipients to remain in the U.S. to continue an education or obtain legal work permits. Following Obama’s Nov. 20 immigration executive action address, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson published a memorandum for the three major federal immigration agencies: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The USCIS will ultimately be responsible for DACA and its expanded rules.
Prior to the Nov. 20 immigration executive action, undocumented immigrants were eligible for DACA if they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and living in the U.S. since June 15, 2007 — five years prior to DACA announcement by Obama. The DACA recipients were allowed deferred action for a two-year period. The recipients, also referred to as DREAMers, are not offered a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency in the U.S. even with the new expanded rules. On June 5, USCIS announced the two-year deferment could be renewed for an additional two years.
With the Nov. 20 immigration executive action address, the Obama administration removed the age limit for undocumented immigrants to receive DACA as long as the individual lived in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2010.
According to the American Immigration Council, “Based on previous estimates that 1.2 million people were eligible for the original DACA program, this expansion brings the total of potential DACA-eligible individuals to 1.5 million people.”
The renewable two-year deferment period has also increased to three years. According to Johnson, the renewable three-year increments will be applicable to all first-time applications and individuals seeking renewal as of Nov. 24. Johnson has also tasked the USCIS to “consider means” on extending DACA recipients who have recently received their two-year renewal for the three-year plan.
The DHS has also instructed the CBP and ICE to identify apprehended undocumented immigrants, including those scheduled for deportation, who may be eligible for DACA. Undocumented immigrants in immigration court or before the Board of Immigration Appeals should also be instructed by ICE lawyers to “close or terminate” their cases and transfer the individuals to USCIS to handle case-by-case determinations on DACA eligibility.
The National Immigration Law Center’s (NILC) immigration policy attorney Kamal Essaheb told Latin Post the DACA program has been a success.
“We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth get work authorization, social security numbers and drivers licenses and many of them have gotten jobs, higher paying jobs, which only makes them able to pay more into the economy and pay more into taxes,” Essaheb said.
With DACA touted as a success, the Obama administration also announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program for undocumented immigrants’ parents who have a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident as a child. DAPA recipients will also be granted a three-year temporary stay in the U.S. and receive legal work authorization if certain requirements are met, including passage of a criminal background check and not be an enforcement priority for deportation from the U.S. prior to Nov. 20. The DAPA program, which will be handled by the USCIS, is not available yet, but is scheduled to start by May 20.
The new criteria for the program should be in effect by Feb. 20, approximately 90 days after Nov. 20, as instructed by Johnson.