Despite the wealth of information out there, there is still some confusion as to the meaning of Deferred Action and procedural requirements. Here is a sampling of some common questions fielded by our office:
DREAM Deferred Action and Advance Parole
USCIS has released the official form which individuals must use file to apply for an exercise of Deferred Action by the government. The form is the I-821D, which according to instructions, must also be filed with the I-765, Application for Work Authorization as well as an I-765WS Worksheet, which is something new. Additionally, the government has clarified and added more information to its Frequently Asked Questions regarding ages of potential applicants as well as what is considered to be "in school." Especially now, more than ever, it is critical that young people potentially affected by this program seek the advice of qualified immigration attorneys who understand the implications of applying as well how the status, if granted, may affect a person's eligibility for future applications or benefits. Things are rarely simple, especially when it comes to immigration status.
On August 9, 2012, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a Withdraw of Notice to PC Tech, thereby stripping the school of its ability to enroll foreign students. (PC Tech does have a right to appeal the decision.)
The link can be found here: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/alerts/pc-tech.htm.
It also released guidance to foreign students currently enrolled at PC Tech Learning, many of whom--up to now--were still understandably confused as to what their status is and what their options are. Fortunately, unlike the way in which the Department of Homeland Security aggressively rounded up (sometimes arresting) and summarily ousted students enrolled at Tri Valley University in California, the government seems to be taking a more measured approach to the general student body here, who in all fairness, don't seem to be involved in the activities PC Tech's officials are accused of.
One of the concerns most clients have when visiting the office about the DREAM Deferred Action Program is whether they will be exposing themselves to removal proceedings by coming forward. This is a very legitimate and understandable reservation given that these people are, so to speak, "off the radar." By coming forward and, in a sense, "registering," they are providing their information and whereabouts to the government. Young people with criminal records and convictions should be very wary of rushing forward to apply. They most definitely would want to consult with qualified immigration counsel regarding their eligibility for Deferred Status given their involvement with the criminal justice system. For those without criminal records who can prove that they meet the criteria of the program, USCIS has attempted to allay those concerns by announcing that any information provided by an applicant as part of the process is protected, and will not be disclosed or referred to ICE or CBP, unless there are facts and circumstances that would render the applicant removable pursuant to USCIS' November 2011 NTA ("Notice to Appear") Memo. The NTA Memo pertains to "Egregious Pubic Safety Cases and Non-Egregious Public Safety Cases." In line with this policy, most applications for Deferred Action will not be filed with ICE directly, which is in charge of enforcements and removal. Rather, applicants under most cases are directed to file the applications with USCIS, which is geared more towards the granting of benefits. So, hopefully, this should be encouraging news to many out there who have apprehensions--understandably so--about coming forward. The best thing to do, of course, is to consult with an attorney to determine eligibility and to honestly assess reward against risk.
On August 3, 2012, USCIS issued and released revised guidance regarding eligibility for the DREAM Deferred Action Program. The actual form itself as well as more detailed procedures will be released on August 15, 2012. In the interim, USCIS did clarify that an individual has to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Additionally, we now have a better understanding of what type of criminal violations will disqualify someone from consideration. The government has made clear that prosecutorial discretion will not be extended to those with felony convictions. A felony is a "federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year." Furthermore, a "significant misdemeanor" is an offense of domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, or driving while under the influence, regardless of the sentence imposed. Any offense not involving the aforementioned areas but in which an individual has served 90 days in jail will also be deemed a significant misdemeanor. Fortunately, a minor traffic, in and of itself, does not appear to be an impediment, although an individuals entire offense history will be reviewed in its totality to determine whether an exercise of prosecutorial discretion is warranted. In other words, the government will take a look at the "big picture": if a person has a history of repeat offenses or a long history of offenses, it may reflect negatively on the person's character and could possibly jeopardize the person's chances of being granted Deferred Action Status.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced today that the Deferred Action Program for DREAMERS will be implemented August 15, 2012. Applications should not be submitted before then. More information to be posted early next week.