By Licelle Cobrador, Esq.
New York – President Barack Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 as a protective measure to shield those who were brought to the United States as children and did not possess citizenship or permanent residency status. Certain undocumented immigrants will be eligible for a work permit, driver’s license and social security card. This program does not grant any official legal status or pathway to citizenship.
More often, DACA recipients who are now in their mid-20s to their late 30s are called Dreamers, derived from the Dreamers Act, a piece of legislation introduced in 2001 that would have given its beneficiaries a path towards U.S. citizenship and protection from deportation.
The 2011 New York Times essay My Life As An Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and theatrical producer, further sheds light on the Dreamer’s experience.
An estimated 800,000 Dreamers have been granted temporary protection. They have been contributing to the only country most of them have ever known. More than 90% of them are gainfully employed and are currently working for companies across the country. Terminating the ability to renew DACA will push businesses into a costly and dreadful spot of having to fire productive employees no longer authorized to work due an arbitrary change in federal policy.
In 2017, the Trump administration rescinded the DACA program. And as expected, DACA recipients and immigrant rights activists put up a strong fight. A federal district judge in California temporarily blocked the repeal of DACA on January 10, 2018.
Judges in New York and Washington, D.C. followed suit. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in November 2019. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the termination of the program was arbitrary and capricious.
The decision was based on whether or not the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasonable explanation for its action. The Department of Homeland Security’s then Acting Secretary Elaine C. Duke’s bare-bones memorandum (Duke memorandum released on September 5, 2017) simply stating that the DACA program was “unlawful” did not pass muster.
On his first day in office, Pres. Joseph Biden issued a memorandum Preserving and Fortifying DACA. The USCIS is currently accepting first-time and renewal requests for DACA applications.
You may qualify for DACA if you: 1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; 2. Entered the U.S. before your 16th birthday; 3. Have five (5) years of continuous residence since June 15, 2007 (exception: brief, casual and innocent absence/s that occurred prior to August 15, 2012) up to the present time; 4. Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 until the time of application; 5. Have no legal status on June 15, 2012 i.e., your lawful status expired or you entered the U.S. without inspection; 6. Are currently in high school, graduated or completed high school and obtained a general education development/GED certificate or an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and 7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Ultimately, the DHS will apply the totality of circumstances test. They will consider the entire history of offenses, along with other factors, to determine whether deferred action is warranted.
There are two versions of the Dream Act currently before Congress: the Dream Act of 2021 introduced by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham and a version of the Dream Act that is incorporated into a larger bill known as the Dream and Promise Act of 2021 introduced by Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard.
Both will support a path to citizenship for Dreamers. The latter would also provide a path to citizenship to beneficiaries of two humanitarian programs: Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). #
This column serves primarily as a guide. It aims to provide general information on immigration law. The information provided is for general guidance and reference purposes only and it is not intended to serve as, nor can it be relied upon, as legal advice to address any specific situation. Those with specific questions are strongly encouraged to contact an immigration attorney.)
*About the author
Born in Manila, Licelle Cobrador has over 10 years of experience in immigration and nationality law. Prior to establishing her own firm, Cobrador & Associates, PLLC, Licelle was an associate at a boutique immigration firm in Manhattan and a leading firm in Manila.
Licelle received her B.A. from the University of the Philippines, Manila (Cum Laude, Top 20 out of 267). After earning her J.D. from Ateneo de Manila University, she was admitted to practice law in the Philippines. She completed her LL.M at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship and was admitted to practice in New York.
Licelle currently serves as Vice President and Executive Director of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund/ FALDEF and as Volunteer Attorney at the Migrant Center of New York. She is a past co-chair of the Cardozo Law Masters Alumni Community. She is also a member of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York/ FALA New York and the National Filipino American Lawyers Association/ NFALA.
Licelle has been selected as TimeIsNow’s Global Filipino Trailblazer. She is recognized as one of Women Today’s Women on the Front Rank, Cardozo Life Magazine’s Movers & Shakers and Cardozo Law’s Outstanding Alumni and has been published in Delaware Law. Licelle is a frequent national and international speaker on U.S. Immigration Law. # (Featured photo by Businessinsider.com)