On Friday, June 15, 2012, President Obama announced a major shift in immigration policy enforcement by ordering the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to immediately halt deportation efforts against young people who were brought into the country as minors. The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or "DACA." While the President's directive is not technically a law passed by Congress, it does have the practical effect of granting relief to potentially countless thousands of young people across the nation. The policy is intended to alleviate the hardship caused to individuals commonly referred to as "DREAMers" after the original legislative act The DREAM ACT (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) first proposed in 2001. Under President Obama's 2012 administrative order, DHS is to exercise its "Prosecutorial Discretion" to grant "Deferred Action" to an eligible individual who can demonstrate that he or she
- Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
- Has continuously resided in the United States for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012 and was present in the United States on June 15, 2012;
- Is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
- Is not above the age of thirty.
Deferred Action is a discretionary action by the government not to seek or execute removal of an alien, notwithstanding that the alien may be legally deportable. The deferred status will last for a period of three years pursuant to President Obama's 2014 Executive Order. During the period of deferred status, an individual may also apply for and receive work authorization provided that economic necessity is demonstrated. In order to qualify, individuals must go through a background check and demonstrate through sufficient, reliable documentation that he/she meets the aforementioned criteria.
Deferred Action Status under this directive does not grant or confer Permanent Residency. Moreover, USCIS has indicated both on its website and during a public engagement that it does not absolve previous or future periods of unlawful presence. However, while individuals are in deferred status, they will not accrue unlawful presence. Prosecutorial Discretion will be extended to three classes of DREAMers: 1) those individuals who are encountered by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement); 2) individuals who are already in proceedings; and 3) those who have already been ordered deported by an Immigration Judge and are subject to a final order. With respect to the first group of people, ICE is instructed to exercise its discretion, on an individual basis, to prevent eligible subjects from being placed into removal proceedings. For those who are already in court but not subject to a final order of removal, ICE will begin deferring action against those who have already been identified as meeting the criteria previously mentioned; the ICE Office of the Public Advocate will also entertain and review any applications by those who believe they warrant deferred status. Lastly, with regards to those subject to a final order, the process will be available to eligible individuals regardless of their age.
Due to the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Texas, the injunction against President Obama's 2014 Executive Order Expanding DACA remains in place. As a result, the Expanded DACA program remains on hold. However, the original DACA program remains unaffected. Applicants who qualify under the original guidelines may still apply for and receive Deferred Action Status. President Trump will issue an announcement in early 2017 regarding the Administration's intentions regarding the continued existence of DACA.
If you, or someone you know, think that you qualify for Deferred Action under DACA, please call our office at 732-516-1717 or 888-404-5876 to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your matter. Not everyone's case is the same, and there may be factors or circumstances in a person's history that need to be addressed first. An attorney from our office will personally review your situation with you and counsel you as to the best course of action.