The Basics About DACA
On September 5, the Trump administration announced that it is “winding down” the DACA program. No new applications will be accepted; renewal applications for work permits expiring in the next six months must be submitted by October 5; and the administration emphasized its underlying authority to terminate or deny deferred action for any reason, at any time, with or without notice. There was an immediate uproar. The highest ranking members of Congress from both parties, as well as President Trump, have subsequently expressed support for legislative action on immigration that would address the DACA issues. So what exactly is DACA?
In the complex context of immigration issues, programs, and proposals, the specific provisions of DACA, “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” can get lost. DACA was created in 2012 by the Obama administration to establish an official process to allow young people who had been brought to this country illegally as children to be temporarily protected from deportation proceedings and to receive permission to work, to study, and obtain driver's licenses. These young people are generally called “Dreamers” after legislation initially introduced in 2001 that was called the "Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act" or "DREAM Act."
In June, 2012, President Obama announced that his administration would begin accepting applications from Dreamers “to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.” The administration’s rationale was that it had prosecutorial discretion to determine how to use utilize immigration enforcement resources, and that it would not direct those resources to deportation of qualified DACA applicants. DACA did not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship.
In order to be able to qualify for DACA, an applicant had to meet the criteria that had already been developed by the Congress through the DREAM Act bills. An applicant could be considered for initial DACA if they:
- were under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012, the date of President Obama’s announcement;
- first came to the United States before their 16th birthday;
- continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the time of applying for DACA;
- came to the United States without documents before June 15, 2012, or their lawful status was expired as of June 15, 2012;
- were currently in school, or had graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, or had obtained a GED certificate, or had been honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces;
- have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors; and
- do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Minors under age 15 could not apply unless they were in removal proceedings. Initial application or application for renewal for an additional two-year period required payment of a fee of $465.
As of the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services approved 787,580 initial DACA applications over the life of the program. Forty-four percent of the approved applicants reside in California or Texas. Ohio ranks 30th among the states for residents with approved initial DACA applications, with 4,442.
DACA Dreamers are not eligible for federal health insurance benefits. DACA Dreamers are not eligible for federal student loans or grants, but may be eligible for student aid under the laws of the particular state where they are enrolled. DACA Dreamers are eligible to obtain a Social Security number, and they are subject to taxes, including payroll taxes. However, they are ineligible to receive social security benefits since DACA status is not “legal status.” With a DACA work permit and Social Security card, DACA Dreamers can apply for a driver’s license in their state of residence.
It’s easy to find surveys estimating high rates of employment and economic contributions by DACA Dreamers. However, the scope of this article is limited to data found on U.S. Government websites, so that information is not included. It’s also easy to find that many Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives support continued protection of DACA Dreamers. More importantly, surveys over the past five years have indicated that around 2/3 of Americans support relief for Dreamers. This part of legislating improvements to immigration problems should be easy, shouldn’t it? And it must be prioritized, before the rescission of DACA exposes these Dreamers to irreversible harm.
If you agree, perhaps you will let your Senators know what you think, and contact your Representative. It is easy to find their contact information online, and they want to hear from us!
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