DACA is on a Limited Lifespan, What Should You Do? Part 1: Renewing DACA Status
As of September 5th, it is official, President Trump has announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program, created by executive order from former-President Obama, has provided protection to around 800,000 people within the United States. These people are often referred to as Dreamers due to the similarities between DACA and the failed 2001 DREAM Act. The program allowed some immigrants who fulfilled a strict set of requirements to qualify for deferred deportation proceedings, as well as receive work permits, social security numbers, and drivers’ licenses. All things can be crucial to anything from holding a job to starting a business to receiving higher education to getting a house.
Since its origin, DACA has helped many immigrants achieve these dreams. However, as of Trump’s September 5th decision, the program is off the table for new applicants and those who applied and received protection under the program-a process that requires providing an enormous amount of personal information-on a timer with an uncertain end.
The people receiving the benefits of DACA are almost entirely people who have little or no ties outside the U.S.-living most of their formative years here. Many DACA recipients have never lived outside the U.S. whatsoever-being born and raised within the country. To qualify for protection, you needed to fulfill several requirements. A DACA applicant must:
- Be under 36 years old (as of today);
- Have been under 16 years old when they came to this country,
- Have lived in the U.S. non-stop from June 15, 2007 to today;
- Have entered the country illegally or had their legal status expire before June 15, 2012;
- Not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor (domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, and the like), any three misdemeanors;
- Have graduated from high school, be in school, received a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces; and
- Not be considered a threat U.S. national security.
DACA doesn’t provide citizenship, it instead offers “lawfully present status,” an important distinction. However, even with such substantial restrictions on the program and no citizenship on offer, hundreds of thousands-nearing a million-people have relied on the protections DACA offered.
After the September 5th order, no further DACA applications will be considered. Any new applications received at this point will be rejected. However, this does not mean a complete and immediate end to DACA protections. For those who have made applications before September 5th it is unclear how these applications will be handled. At a minimum, there has been no statement that these applications will be rejected out of hand. Those who’ve received DACA protections will also not immediately lose what they have. The protections will last until they would naturally expire, in some circumstances they can even be renewed. No matter the situation, if you’re a DACA Dreamer Trump has put you in a tough spot and it’s important to know your rights and how to proceed. To help with this, we’ll look at the steps you can take to potentially extend your DACA protections if you’ve already signed up. What’s more, in case you won’t be able to renew your stats, later this week we’ll have an article on the implications of losing DACA protections-some of the steps you can take and what you can expect.
How to Renew Your DACA Status
First and foremost, no matter what your situation, you shouldn’t go about trying to renew your DACA status on your own. If you have any questions, or even if you don’t, seeking the help of an experienced immigration lawyer to help you with your application process is more important than ever. As we’ll discuss, time to renew is short and a mistake on an application may leave you without recourse. Fortunately, in the coming weeks there will be free legal clinics across the nation willing to help you with your application. Look online to search for these clinics, either at a home computer or at a library.
As we mentioned earlier, no new applications are being accepted anymore. So at this point if your aren’t renewing your DACA status, it will be best to look to other alternatives in seeking legal status. The final deadline for all renewal applications is October 5th, 2017, applications must have arrived at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office by this date. So you basically have less than a month to get your renewal application in-thus the importance of seeking help from an attorney or a free clinic. You’ll only be able to renew for 2 more years if your DACA expiration date is March 5, 2018 or earlier. All expiration dates after this will maintain protection until they expire, but cannot seek a renewal at this point. Obviously you’ll need to still fulfill the original requirements discussed above for DACA if you seek to renew. If you’ve been convicted of a crime (DUIs are especially known as the DACA-killer) or left the education program you were in when you first applied it could seriously impact your chances of a DACA renewal and seeking an attorney’s help becomes even more important. Another potential roadblock could be if you’ve left the country without advanced parole. You must live in the U.S. continuously to receive DACA protections. The exception to this is where you receive advanced parole-basically get pre-approval to leave the U.S. These are generally granted for emergency reasons or family reasons and used to be generously granted, although that has changed in recent times. If you’ve left the country without such parole, that’s another reason to seek an attorney.
If you have advanced parole coming up, it may be best not to take it in such uncertain times. If you’re abroad on advanced parole, it’s probably worth coming home as soon as possible.
As for the documents you will need to fill out for renewal, there are two big ones with an additional worksheet tacked on-an I-821D, an I-765, and a worksheet accompanying the I-765 called the I-765W. These can be easily obtained online and will likely be available at the legal clinics in the coming month.
It sounds like a broken record, but it’s worth getting an attorney help with these forms. There is too much on the line to risk potentially losing renewal over clerical issues or mistakes on your form. For the I-821D some common mistakes include providing a physical address instead of a mailing address or providing an address that doesn’t match your I-765. You should generally apply with your most commonly used name. However, as much as possible these forms should mirror the information on your initial application and your birth certificate. As a renewal, you will only need to provide an address if you have moved since your initial application. If you have moved, it’s important that you reported this change of address soon (within 10 days) after the move. If you did not, you may need an attorney to help you clear up this issue.
The I-765 will ask for, among other things, financial information. This area often trips people up, but generally you can answer with a good faith estimate which is as accurate as possible. Annual income can take a month and multiply it by 12 or just be based of income tax. Expenses can similarly be done as your average month times twelve plus incidentals like back to school costs. Assets is simply a list of what you have, house, business, car, etc. Another thing to take note of on this form is the explanation of economic state section. This is a good opportunity to add a personal touch to an application-focus on how DACA has effected your family and financial state. DACA renewals can occasionally be denied purely on discretion-basically for nearly no reason at all-immigration experts feel that adding a personal touch can sometimes help with this.
Similarly, it can be worth including a handwritten letter of what DACA has done for you personally with your I-821D. Once again, to try and help avoid potential discretion-based refusals.
If you’ve recently been married or had a child, this may change what you need to write on your form. However, it also may open new avenues to full citizenship. Make sure you fully explore all your options if you speak with an attorney or attend a free clinic.
The Uncertainty Can Be Terrifying
DACA was life changing for many people, suddenly losing its protection can be terrifying and devastating. This is especially true because of the enormous amount of information provided through these forms, information that could potentially be used as tools by an agency like ICE given Trump’s weakened privacy protections for immigrants. However, if you can get a renewal it could be huge. Two years is a long time and the full history of DACA has not played out. DACA will not be gone for around 6 months and where the law goes from there will be a battle played out in the courts and in how Congress chooses to address the issue. If it hasn’t been said enough already, seek the help of an attorney and find out if you are eligible for renewal.
If you aren’t eligible, you need to know your rights and what to expect as DACA disappears. While DACA is not yet gone and the battle is not yet over, it is important to plan for the worst and know what DACAs disappearance may mean for you. Later this week, we’ll have an article on just this issue. For now, consider legal support in your immediate area; chances are very good that free legal help may be available.