Revisiting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) – Six Months Later
By: Lilli Baculli, Esq.
Michelle was asked by her High School Principal for a "special meeting" together with her parents. At the meeting, the Principal announced the good news that Michelle received a scholarship that she can use towards college tuition. Michelle is a senior in high school, and dreams of going to Medical School and be a doctor.
Similarly, Jackson just received word that he is being sent overseas for a three-month project at a prestigious magazine. At 22, he is the youngest photojournalist to be hired to date by this magazine, and he is excited to show his bosses his photojournalistic prowess.
What Michelle and Jackson do not know and which their parents have to explain, is that they were each brought to America by their parents when they were young, and have lived in America ever since. They are "American" by upbringing and values, except that they do not have the legal papers to show for it.
What are Michelle and Jackson's options?
It has been five months and nineteen days since June 15, 2012, when President Obama instituted a new policy to "stop the deportation of young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements." The issue is revisited now that the elections are over and President Obama remains in office.
To be clear, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion has been in place for a while now, both by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). More importantly, this new policy is not law. It confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights. It is simply an exercise of discretion in deferring the institution of deportation proceedings for certain illegal immigrants, and these individuals remain to be deportable even in the event of a favorable exercise of discretion.
The future of the DREAM Act and DACA remain uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, some young illegal immigrants are hesitant to come forward and take advantage of what DACA offers. To be sure, whether or not to apply for DACA is one's own personal decision to make.
Sadly, Michelle will have to turn down the scholarship, and Jackson will have to stay put on American soil. But they might be eligible for, and be able to take advantage of, the policy of Deferred Action.
What can DACA do for you?
Whatever DACA's uncertainties are, the greatest positive argument for pursing DACA is that individuals who are granted deferred action by either ICE or USCIS may apply for work authorization during the period of deferred action. Work authorization is for a period of two (2) years. Whatever uncertainties lie after the two year period of deferred action, the fact of the matter is that individuals who are granted deferred action now, will be able to earn a living, support themselves and their families, and contribute positively to their community.
Unless and until Congress makes a law that would once and for all address the gaps in current immigration law, young individuals who are in similar situations as Michelle and Jackson are able to take advantage – for whatever it may serve them – of the policy of Deferred Action.
It is important to be informed and know your options. An experienced firm or attorney will be able to help you understand and navigate through the legal process of Deferred Action.
Atty. Lilli A. Baculi is an associate attorney in Chua Tinsay & Vega, A Professional Legal Corporation (CTV) - a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Philippines. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (619) 955-6277; (415) 495-8088; firstname.lastname@example.org.