DACA On a Limited Lifespan, What Should You Expect? Part 2: Implications of Losing DACA
President Trump has declared the upcoming death knell of the Deferred Action for Children Act (DACA)-an Obama era program allowing immigrants who’ve been here most of their life to receive deferred deportation, get drivers licenses, social security numbers, and get work permits. Yesterday, we discussed whether and how you can extend the protections before the program disappears. However, that unfortunately won’t be an option for everybody.
Only those whose DACA protections expire on or before March 5, 2018 can apply for a renewal of protection and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office is not accepting any new applications for protection as of Trump’s announcement on September 5th of this year. While 800,000 or so people have received the protections and benefits of DACA, despite restrictive requirements limiting the program’s applicants to people who-among other things-spent nearly their entire life in the U.S., the reality is many are going to lose protections in the coming months. So what will this loss of protections mean in practical terms?
What Does the End of DACA Mean?
First and foremost, there is a real potential of deportation. Part of applying for DACA involves giving an enormous amount of information-where you live, where you go to school, etc. This information was protected by privacy rules under the Obama administration but Trump removed those protections this January.
While the stated deportation priorities of the Trump administration are immigrants with criminal records, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has a bit of a history in recent times of going for people they know about. This makes former DACA recipients, who have provided their address and whereabouts, potential targets. This is surely a terrifying fact for DACA recipients-many of whom have spent their whole lives in the U.S., have no ties or life outside the country, and were babies or children when their parents entered the U.S. The prospect of being forced to start over in a place where you have no roots is a scary one.
However, there’s a lot of ground to cover-in the courts and in Congress-before there is a final word on how DACA Dreamers are going to be treated. For now, we can focus on the things in your control and the more certain and immediate effects of the end of DACA.
Leaving the Country-Advanced Parole
DACA protections require recipients to continuously live in the U.S. This means no leaving the country, except with earlier permission known as advance parole. This was generally provided for emergencies and family situations. While it was initially generously granted, it’s become harder to get as the program continued. However, it’s never been harder to get than now-advance parole is no longer available whatsoever. This means that DACA dreamers will not be allowed to leave the country and keep their protections from now on. Honestly, with the situation as uncertain as it is, it may be advisable to not take an advance parole trip you have received approval for if it is coming up in the near future. If you’re already abroad on advance parole, it may be worth coming back.
Work Permits: Will You Keep Your Job?
DACA isn’t gone just yet, and won’t be until March 5, 2018. Even still, Congress and the courts may still act before that date one way or another. Either way, your work permits will be valid until DACA goes away completely. You can continue to work until then. What’s more, your employer does not have the right to ask you whether you are a DACA recipient or how you got your work permit. If you are an at-will employee (the most common type of employment) you can be fired for any legal reason. However, you cannot be fired, demoted, or put on leave simply because the expiration date on your work permit is coming up. You also are under no requirement to inform your employer that DACA has ended. As DACA ends they can ask for an updated work permit. If you don’t have a valid work permit, they will likely fire you. One potential option to help mitigate this-although it has no guarantee of success-would be to ask to placed on a leave of absence until you can figure out your work permit. Then you’d at least have a job waiting if Congress or the courts work out something with DACA.
Driver’s Licenses: Staying on the Road
One of the other great benefits of DACA was that it helped many immigrants get driver’s licenses-opening up any number of job and life opportunities. Once DACA’s gone, whether you can have a license will mostly depend on which state you live in. Twelve states-California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, and Washington-will give otherwise eligible residents a drivers license no matter what their immigration status is. If you live in one of these states, you’ll likely still have a valid license once DACA goes away. Otherwise you’ll need to look to the rules of your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to determine what your options are.
How Will This Affect Your Health Insurance?
While DACA offered several advantages-access to federal healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act was not one of them. Thus, for the most part, healthcare will be unaffected. However, if you have insurance through your work, you should anticipate losing that coverage once DACA disappears. If you have coverage through your spouse or partner, coverage will not be effected. However, you should know that your spouse or partner may offer you an additional means of becoming a legal citizen-it is likely worth consulting and attorney.
In some states and districts-California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and the District of Columbia-there are state health care plans which are available to low income households-including DACA households. Washington has a similar program which may be available to DACA recipients who have disabilities.
In California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York, low-income DACA recipients may be eligible for comprehensive health coverage through a state program (e.g., Medi-Cal). In Washington, DACA grantees with disabilities may be eligible for medical coverage. After your DACA expires, you may still be eligible for state health programs. Check back here for updates, or check with a trusted advocacy organization in your state. Different states will have different approaches once DACA disappears and it’s worth considering the approach of your state.
Some states offer some limited coverage based on certain diseases or populations, low-income families can often get help for pregnancy-related issues and some emergency care. A lot of these programs will be available to non-citizens even after the end of DACA.
In California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington, there is also full medical coverage available to all low-income persons under the age of 19-regardless of immigration status.
Impact on Education?
Many DACA dreamers are pursuing higher education in the many colleges and universities within the U.S. Most states-with the exception of Alabama and South Carolina-allow for undocumented immigrants to attend universities. Georgia is notable for having a few colleges that specifically deny access to DACA Dreamers.
What’s more, even as it stands, DACA Dreamers can’t get federal financial aid-although some states offer aid regardless of immigration status. For the most part, the disappearance of DACA should have a limited effect on Dreamers seeking higher
The Fate of Your Social Security Number
The Social Security Number (SSN) you received through DACA should continue to be valid even after the end of DACA and should remain valid for life. You should continue to use the SSN for tax purposes, education, banking, and any other purpose under the sun. However, it’s worth noting that it won’t be useful for employment without a work permit.
If you are a DACA recipient and haven’t yet received a SSN it is worth applying for one now while your DACA benefits are still valid.
Knowing Your Rights When Dealing With ICE
We’ve talked about deportation as a possibility, and that means dealing with ICE. There have already been reports of ICE agents targeting DACA recipients. It’s important to know your rights regarding ICE-even as an undocumented immigrant you have constitutional rights. However, if you have any real questions or legal issues it is crucial that you speak to an immigration attorney. But, there are a few things worth keeping in mind for dealing with ICE:
- You are not required to answer any questions asked by an ICE agent. It is generally better not to answer until you consult an attorney.
- You do not have to, and generally should not, answer the door to an ICE agent who is knocking.
- You are not required to and should not, before consulting an attorney, sign anything given to you by an ICE agent.
- If an ICE agent stops you outside your home, it is worth asking if you are free to leave. If the answer is yes, you can and should leave.
The rights we’ve talked about above are just guidelines. It cannot be said enough that if you have any issues at all it is worth speaking to an immigration attorney. At a minimum, it can be worth speaking to an attorney to determine if you have any non-DACA immigration options. The future is uncertain, and the best you can do is be prepared. Save money for emergencies, make sure somebody else has authorization to access bank accounts and the like, potentially add somebody else to your mortgage, car lease, or home lease, etc. Once again, consult an attorney to know exactly what steps you may need to take-or at least try and attend one of the many free legal clinics which will be available throughout the month at locations across the nation.
DACA isn’t gone until March 5, 2018. Until then, DACA protections and work permits should remain valid. However, it is worth noting that USCIS has the power to revoke DACA status on pure discretion-basically for any reason. This underscores the biggest problem with how DACA has been treated-the uncertainty. People who’ve never lived anywhere else have been forced to live with a rug beneath their feet which may be pulled away at any moment-forcing them to live in a place they have no ties. The way DACA has been treated, it may even leave some more vulnerable than they were before it. However, there are still tools available. For now, the best that DACA Dreamers can do is be prepared and seek legal help.