President Obama’s Latest Executive Action on Immigration: DACA and DAPA
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions in an effort to fix our broken immigration system. Two of these executive actions include an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a new deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these two programs are expected to help approximately 4.4 million people currently living in the United States.
What is Deferred Action?
Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion by which the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security may defer the removal of an undocumented immigrant for a period of time. Deferred action is granted on a case-by-case basis, and it may be terminated at any time. It is important to understand that Deferred Action does not confer any form of legal status and it does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. Instead, what deferred action does is that it allows a person to be lawfully present in the United States for a specified period of time.
The Expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA)
One June 15, 2012, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security announced that certain people, who came to the United States before age 16 and meet several guidelines, can apply for deferred action and obtain employment authorization for a period of two years.
- No age cap. Under the old DACA guidelines, all applicants had to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Now, all otherwise eligible individuals may be considered for DACA even if they were older than 31 on June 15, 2012.
- Revised entry date. One of the guidelines for consideration under DACA is continuous presence in the United States since June 15, 2007 up to the present. This date has now been adjusted to January 1, 2010. This means that a person who meets all other DACA requirements, arrived to the United States prior to January 1, 2010, and has continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010 up to the present, may be considered for DACA.
- Three-year period. Effective November 24, 2014, DACA will be granted for three years instead of two years, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will issue employment authorization documents valid for three years.
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)
Pursuant to President Obama’s announcement, the Department of Homeland Security will be granting a temporary reprieve from deportation to parents of United States citizens and legal permanent residents. If eligible, these individuals will be able to receive a work permit. To qualify for this new program, known as DAPA, a person must meet the following requirements:
- Have a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident as of November 20, 2014;
- Have resided in the United States continuously since before January 1, 2010;
- Were physically present in the United States on November 20, 2014 and at the time of the application;
- Have no lawful status on November 20, 2014;
- Are not an enforcement priority; and
- Present no other factors that would warrant a denial based on an exercise of discretion.
Applicants will be considered an enforcement priority if they are suspected of terrorism; are part of a gang; have been convicted of a felony, an aggravated felony, three or more misdemeanors, or a significant misdemeanor; are significant visa abusers; or have a final removal order issued on or after January 1, 2014. If you have ever been found guilty of a crime, make sure you consult with an immigration attorney to determine how this could impact your eligibility.
Can I apply now for the expanded DACA or for DAPA?
No. USCIS is expected to start accepting applications for the expanded DACA by February 18, 2015. However, people eligible for DACA under the old guidelines, may continue to apply.
The application for DAPA has not been released. Once released, USCIS is expected to start accepting applications for DAPA by May 19, 2015.
What can I do in the meantime?
If you think you qualify for DAPA, you can start doing the following:
- Gather documents that can establish your identity; your relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident son or daughter; and your continuous residence in the United States since before January 1, 2010.
- If you have a criminal record, get a copy of the court disposition in each case.
- Start saving money for the filing fee.
- File your taxes.
For people who have not done their taxes, you should meet with a tax professional who can assist you with preparing and filing your taxes from previous years. Although this is not one of the requirements, your filed tax returns will serve as evidence that you were here, in the United States, for a given year. Furthermore, President Obama mentioned that to be able to apply for temporary relief from deportation (i.e.: DAPA), people need to be willing to pay their “fair share of taxes.” Therefore, filing your taxes may be a requirement later on, for renewal applications.
Finally, and most importantly, beware of scams. Do not take advice about your immigration situation from a notary public or “notario.” Always consult with a qualified immigration attorney. The immigration attorneys at the Powell Law Group, P.C., represent clients all across the United States. Call us today at 804-794-4030 or toll free at 1-800-996-6503 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Adriana M. Ruiz is the lead immigration attorney at Powell Law Group, P.C. Her immigration law practice covers family-based green cards, temporary visas, citizenship, and removal defense work.