We are still awaiting clarification and guidelines from USCIS as to how the DREAMER deferred action program will be implemented. We are also awaiting more guidance as to who will be disqualified from applying. USCIS has made it clear that those with felony convictions will be not be granted deferred status. A felony, according to USCIS, is a federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. This is understandable. However, what is not so transparent is the meaning of a significant misdemeanor or even a misdemeanor for that matter. Does a local ordinance violation constitute a misdemeanor? Will a DWI be considered a significant misdemeanor? It arguably could, given that it is a state offense “involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs”! What about leaving the scene of an accident? In New Jersey, Leaving the Scene of an Accident is punishable by up to 30 days in jail for cases where there is only property damage, and up to 180 days in the event of personal injury. See NJSA 39:4-129. Technically speaking, the offense could constitute a state offense involving “unlawful flight from arrest, prosecution, or the scene of an accident.” The point is this: people need to be aware of not only convictions in Superior Court but Municipal Court as well. It is advisable to secure any and all certified dispositions now, so that one’s eligibility for the the program can be accurately assessed once the formal guidelines come out.
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