Archive for the 'Discrimination' Category

A Scarlet Letter: Sex Offender Status to Be Put on Passports

Over a year since the law was passed the State Department has begun enforcing provisions of the International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders–more colloquially known as the International Megan’s Law or H.R. 515–requiring the passports of registered sex offenders convicted of sex offenses involving a minor to bear a notice saying, “the bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor.”

The International Megan’s Law was introduced back in 2015 and signed into law by former-President Obama on February 2nd, 2016. There are many provisions of the law, however the relevant ones here require sex offenders whose crime involves a minor to bear passports including the above discussed notice. The law also requires offenders to give law enforcement 21 days notice before travelling out of the country.

sex offenderThe law has obviously been in effect for over a year, but as of a few days ago the State Department will begin revoking the existing passports of covered sex offenders and requiring them to apply for new passports bearing the notice. The goal of this law is to target and eliminate sex tourism, a serious issue. According to the State Department, the passport notice and provisions of the law will not prevent a sex offender from leaving the country altogether or affect the validity of their passports in any way–although they do acknowledge that other countries may take a different approach.

Despite these reassurances, there have been some who have raised questions about the legality of these provisions. An organization known as California Reform Sex Offender Laws brought a lawsuit almost immediately after the law was passed. The right to travel freely is often discussed as a fundamental human right, so the concerns are not completely meritless. However, the goal of eliminating sex tourism is hard to argue with. To better understand the situation, let’s look at the original Megan’s Law, the International Megan’s Law, and the resolution of the lawsuit brought against the law.

The Original Megan’s Law

Megan’s Law is fairly well known, but for those unfamiliar it is the informal name for the laws creating the public registry of sex offenders. In the wake of the horrific rape and murder of a young girl named Megan Kanka, states across the nation created laws requiring registration after somebody is convicted. The laws vary a bit from state to state in terms of what information is publically available, what offenses require registration if convicted, requirements placed on registered offenders etc. Some common information that is publically available includes names, pictures, addresses, conviction/incarceration dates, and the type of crime they were convicted of.

The laws have occasionally faced challenges and criticism. These criticisms usually trend towards the laws either being overly restrictive or overbroad in who is required to register. For example, public urination is an offense that often requires registration. Another common criticism is that the laws tend to paint with broad strokes in terms of making little to moderate distinctions between types of offenses. Regardless of these criticisms, the laws have consistently been supported in the courts.

Potential Issues with The International Megan’s Law

The International Megan’s Law has a great deal more elements than the passport provisions discussed above. For example, in addition to the passport provisions, the law allows the U.S. to notify destination countries if an offender is travelling to their country. Stopping sex tourism is hard to argue with, especially when the provisions are exclusively targeted at sex offenders with crimes involving minors. However, this has certainly not stopped critics from commenting on the law. Surprisingly, not everything these critics say is necessarily completely off the mark.

As mentioned, the law was created to stymie sex tourism and child sex trafficking. When originally passed, representatives made it clear that no one law could totally stop these issues but argued that every step towards eliminating them was an important one. However, critics have pointed out that the issue targeted may have been more of a talking point than a realistic problem. In a five-year period, there were only three convictions for sexual offenses overseas out of the over 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. today. What’s more, statistics do seem to show than the percentage of registered offenders who commit similar crimes again is very low–in the realm of 3%. The critics argue that the new passports are a sort of “Scarlett Letter” singling out registered offenders even more than before and that the law does not address a problem as widespread as Congress suggested or effectively deal with sex tourism. These criticisms led to the lawsuit discussed above from the California Reform Sex Offenders Laws.

The Arguments of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit primarily focused on how much the laws could limit travel and how potentially overbroad the provisions were–including those convicted of crimes such as sexting or public urination. The plaintiffs in the case included several people who specifically highlighted this potential over breadth and would need special passports–a man whose conviction had been expunged, a man sentenced to only probation and not required to register because his crime was particularly minor, and a man convicted 25 years ago. At least one of these three was required to routinely travel to China for work, so the passport requirement hit him particularly close to home. The lawsuit argued that the law was unconstitutional because it compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment, retroactively punishes people (generally a legal no-no), denied them equal protection of the law and denied them the right to legal process in defending their passports. The court in question did not buy any of these arguments and dismissed the case in September of 2016.

The judge ruled that the lawsuit, brought before passport provisions had taken effect, had no actual injury but only a speculative one–an actual injury is required for standing to challenge a law. However, the judge still took the time to rule that despite not having standing the case would have lost anyway. Government speech, such as the contents of a passport or driver’s license, is not protected by the First Amendment. Court’s have long held that registration of sex offenders–no matter how substantial or far reaching the impact on a registrant’s life–don’t implicate retroactive punishment issues as they are not punitive measures. The judge also ruled that the registrants already got their due process–when they were first convicted of the crime they had to register for. Finally, she ruled that there was no constitutionally protected class that was targeted by the law and that it only required a rational basis–the least rigorous constitutionality test–to be considered constitutional. The judge said that the International Megan’s Law met this test.

Law Potentially More Effective Than Anticipated

As of now, the International Megan’s Law and its passport provisions are constitutional. However, with the passport provisions taking effect there is an actual harm that may give a lawsuit standing to challenge the law and the district court ruling on the matter. But, it looks like the provisions are here to stay. What’s more, it looks like they are having an effect.

The author of the law has said Thailand has expressed gratitude for the passage of the International Megan’s Law. Apparently, over 160 convicted sex offenders have been caught trying to enter the country.  It is not clear whether these offenders were entering for the purposes of sex tourism, but Thailand has an unfortunate reputation as destination for this sort of activity. Ultimately, it’s hard to argue against any step designed to reduce such heinous behavior. It is certainly crucially important to protect the constitutional rights of all–including those who have been convicted of a crime. The arguments that the potential benefits of the law could be outweighed by the harm they do isn’t one to dismiss out of hand. However, for now the International Megan’s Law is a constitutional law protecting children across the world.

Attorney General Sessions Argues Civils Rights Act Doesn’t Bar Discrimination against Transgender Persons

Earlier this October, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ordered the Justice Department to argue in court that transgender people are not protected by the Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on gender. The Obama Administration had argued, often successfully, that “gender” included gender identity. Under Sessions, “sex” and “gender” would mean biological sex and gender only.

Session’s new policy faces an uphill battle, and potentially a losing war. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has continued to support transgender employees, as recently as this summer. Additionally, there are a number of cases where the courts have ruled in favor of the Obama Administration’s position. Court precedents stretching back to the 1980’s support the argument that illegal discrimination against gender can include discrimination against gender stereotypes.

What is the Difference Between Gender Stereotypes and Gender Identity?

The greatest challenge Jeff Sessions will have is explaining how gender stereotypes and gender identity are different. If discrimination based on gender stereotypes is illegal, how is discrimination based on gender identity legal?

Under judicial precedent, employers cannot punish female employees for not being feminine enough. Employers cannot demand individual women to speak or dress more femininely to succeed in the business world. The general idea is that punishing a person for not conforming to a gender stereotype would mean penalizing a person for being the “right kind” of woman.

Session’s new policy will have to untie the Gordian knot that gender stereotypes are linked with gender identity. If a man behaves more femininely or if a woman is more masculine than her co-workers, employers have no right to punish that employee for not conforming to what the employer believes to be appropriate gender boundaries.

transgenderOf course, feminine men or masculine women are not always transgender. Transgender persons might not see themselves as feminine men or masculine women. However, employers and laypeople might see transgender men as masculine women or transgender women as feminine men. The two are inseparable and enforcing a policy that allows for discrimination against transgender while the law prohibits gender stereotyping will be virtually impossible.

Comparable Evils

Jeff Sessions’s biggest defense for his reversal in transgender protections is that he is merely enforcing the law. It was the Obama administration that violated the Civil Rights Act by expanding the meaning of “gender” beyond what Congress intended.

There are two problems with this argument. First, Congress has never stated that gender only means biological sex of the person. Congress has largely been silent on the matter. Republicans have had control of Congress for the last several years and have yet to even hold hearings on the interpretation of gender in the Civil Rights Act (in contrast with 56+ attempts to repeal Obamacare while President Obama was in office). If Congress really had an issue with the President Obama’s interpretation of gender, one assumes Congress would have at least passed a bill objecting to it.

Second, the Supreme Court has ruled on whether the Civil Rights Act can be interpreted beyond the original intent of Congress. In 1998, the late Justice Scalia wrote, in a unanimous ruling about male and male sexual harassment:

“Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed.”

When even the father of Originalism says that the Civil Rights can reach beyond the original understanding of the Congress that enacted it, Attorney General Sessions is clearly in the wrong.

Alternative Means

Of course, it is unlikely that Jeff Sessions will change his mind. It might be best for transgender persons to use other legal provisions to protect themselves from discrimination. This might require some creative lawyering:

These arguments are probably trending on thin ice. With an administration that seems hell-bent on demolishing LGBT protections though, desperate times might require creative measures.

Federal Judge Rules Attorney General Sessions Cannot Withhold Grants from Sanctuary Cities

Out in Illinois, a federal court has recently ruled that Attorney General Sessions cannot fully follow through on his threat to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities. In a campaign and presidency that has made immigration one of its most spoken on and contentious issues, the idea of sanctuary cities-cities refusing to fully cooperate with immigration investigations-is something that President Trump has revisited again and again. Trumps’ own steps to take rights away from immigrants-such as his recent DACA declarations-have only exacerbated the matter as the number of cities with laws limiting how state law enforcement may interact with immigration agents and ICE grows.

Several states such as California, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have laws in place limiting police cooperation with federal immigration authorities. However, it is Chicago-a state with a similar law of its own-that has brought the first successful challenge to Sessions’ immigration compliance requirements on federal funds-specifically the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (better known as the Byrne JAG grant).

The ruling out of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has determined that part-but not all-of the restrictions AG Sessions has place on Byrne JAG grants are unconstitutional-an undeniable, if not complete, victory for cities with laws like Chicago’s across the nation. The ruling places a nationwide stop on the portions of the restrictions the court ruled unconstitutional.  Let’s look at the limitations Sessions attempted to place on these grants and the court’s ruling.

attorney general sessionsSessions’ Restrictions on Grant Funding

Sessions’ restrictions on funding, announced by the Attorney General back in July of this year, placed two new conditions on the ability to receive funds through Byrne JAG grants. First, requiring local authorities to tell federal agents before people suspected of immigration violations were released from jail, detention facility, or really any type of correctional facility. Second, state authorities had to give immigration access to detention facilities and to the people in those facilities. This was on top of a condition added back in 2016 which required cities and states receiving Byrne JAG funds to certify that they wouldn’t restrict state and local law enforcement from sharing information with Immigration and Naturalization Services when it comes to somebody’s citizenship status.

These Byrne JAG grants are generally used to support and outfit state and local law enforcement across the country so these additional requirements had the potential for serious national impact. Normally, Byrne JAG grants are given based on a statutory formula based on population and the amount of reported violent crimes. Chicago has received this grant money every year since 2005-including last year when it was required to certify that it would not restrict law enforcement from sharing information with federal immigration authorities. In fact, just last year it was given a little over $2.3M.

Chicago itself has had rules limiting law enforcement’s participation in federal immigration investigations in place since the mid-80s and codified those rules into law over a decade ago. The rules also prevent city agents and agencies form requesting or telling giving others information about somebody’s citizenship. In 2012, these rules were taken even one step further to specifically deny immigration agents access to Chicago facilities and to deny immigration detainer requests (requests for local police to hold somebody on suspicion of an immigration issue) unless specific criteria are met.

These policies-known as the Welcoming City Ordinance-have been in place so long because, according to Chicago, they have created safer streets by allowing the immigrant community to feel safe talking to law enforcement. However, as a potential “sanctuary city,” Sessions’ restrictions had a chance to seriously impact Chicago’s ability to fund its law enforcement. Thus, it’s no surprise they were quick to challenge their constitutionality.

The Court’s Ruling

Chicago challenged the constitutionality of AG Sessions’ restrictions on two primary grounds. First, that Congress never granted Sessions the power to restrict Byrne JAG grants in this manner. Second, that even if Congress did give Sessions that power the restrictions themselves impinged on the Constitutional rights of the states.

On the most recent restrictions, the ones dealing with reporting and access to detention centers, the court determined that AG Sessions simply overstepped his bounds. Congress not only didn’t give him the power to make such limitations on these grants, they explicitly gave the power to somebody else. While Sessions argued he’d been given broad power to make such restrictions in an older act of Congress, the court felt that if such a grant had been given Congress wouldn’t have needed to give the AG the limited powers to restrict these grants that it did-the power to require a certification that a grantee will comply with all federal laws.

With only this limited power at the AG’s disposal, both the most recent restrictions on these grants were an overreach and thus unconstitutional. However, Sessions does have the power to require certifications as he did with last year’s additional restriction. This meant that this third restriction would only be unconstitutional if it violated some other part of the Constitution.

The 10th Amendment means that the federal government can’t generally force the states to legislate or act in a certain way. Nor can they force state agents such as state police to act in a certain way. They can, however, often tie funds to certain behavior. Chicago argued that the restrictions were violating the 10th Amendment by forcing them to allow state agents to report to the federal government. However, Congress has broad power to legislate when it comes to immigration. What’s more, these very restrictions have already been ruled by another court to not violate the 10th amendment-drawing a potentially questionable distinction between forcing a state to act and preventing the state from directly restricting its officials from acting. The court primarily looked at the fact that the requirements don’t force any active legislation or make state agents act on the federal government’s behalf. Thus, the certification requirement from last year was ruled constitutional.

Ruling Still a Partial Victory for AG Sessions

This ruling takes away the most controlling parts of AG Sessions’ restrictions. However, what is left will still allow for the potential to withhold funds from many states. Chicago is far from alone in its Welcoming City Ordinance, many cities and states have similar provisions. These laws have become particularly contentious in recent months.

California has been moving forward on bills to increase protection from undocumented students in public schools. At the same time, Mississippi and Texas have passed laws barring local ordinances creating “sanctuary cities.” Alabama passed legislation targeting universities attended by undocumented immigrants. The controversy on this issue has just begun and will only continue to heat up. Even this ruling will likely be appealed by the federal government. However, even with what’s left, there is a real possibility the AG Sessions will have the oomph to follow through on some of his threats to funding for cities not cooperating with federal immigration officials.

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?

DACAWhat 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 Future

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.

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.

DACAAfter 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.