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President Trump is planning on canceling the Deferred Action Program for Certain Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”). If you are an ally of immigrant rights, read on to learn how you can help the immigrant community at this crucial point. If you now have DACA or in the process of applying for DACA, we’ll list out some important points to keep in mind as we try to move forward.
What is DACA?
First, a quick review of what is DACA. In 2012, President Obama used his executive authority to decide who the federal government should focus on for deportation. Out of this legal authority came the DACA program. DACA is a form of temporary protection from deportation known as “deferred action.” “Deferred action” has been part of our U.S. immigration law for many years and did not begin with President Obama.
In order to qualify for DACA, young people had to meet several age, education, and residency requirements. They also could not have committed certain criminal offenses. After going through a screening process which included fingerprint checks, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) could decide to approve the application. Approved individuals could also apply for work authorization permits so they could work legally in the U.S. and get social security numbers.
DACA was never a guarantee to U.S. citizenship or even a green card. It never made you eligible for welfare or other federal benefits such as the Affordable Care Act. Also, DACA never meant that you could never be deported. However, for most people, the benefits of coming out of the shadows was greater than living in fear of what USCIS would do with their information. Now, that fear is a nightmare as we do not know what President Trump plans to do with the information provided by DACA applicants.
The Impact of Canceling DACA
There is an economic and societal impact to canceling DACA. Since USCIS began accepting applications, they have approved almost 800,000 cases. These approvals opened the doors to higher education and better job opportunities for thousands DACA recipients. In turn, these young people have bought houses, cars, and contributed to our Social Security fund. Eliminating DACA would cost the U.S. $433.4 billion in lost GDP over a decade, and reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion.
Aside from the economic benefit to the U.S. there is the community and humanitarian toll of canceling DACA. Many of these young people have made huge contributions to our communities. Now, U.S. immigration authorities can begin the process of deporting them. On top of that, they may also lose their ability to work legally, go to school, and even drive legally while they fight a deportation case.
How Do We #DefendDACA?
We have a chance to convince Speaker Paul Ryan and Congress to act to save DACA. During the six months ahead, we need you to help put the pressure on every legislator in the Senate and Congress. One easy way to do it is through the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (“AILA”) online advocacy tool found here. You input your zip code and AILA will send an email to your representative for you.
Another way to help is by calling your representative. Their local and DC phone numbers can be found by searching for them here. Representatives have told us that their staff keeps a tally of phone calls in support or against important issues.
Next, make your voice heard in your local and national communities. Write a letter to the editor using this template, share a tweet in support of DACA, or share a Facebook post from our website. Let’s use social media for some good.
If You Have DACA
The best advice is to talk to an immigration attorney with knowledge about deferred action and immigration deportation proceedings. Remember, we do not yet know the specifics of how the President plans to end DACA.
Keeping this in mind, remember the following points:
- Your work permit is valid until it expires. Even if the government wants to take your work authorization away, they will have to go through certain procedures to do so. Your job or company should not fire you just because DACA may be going away. For more information about your rights as an employee see this advisory by the National Immigration Law Center: https://www.nilc.org/issues/daca/daca-and-workplace-rights/.
- Each state will treat the issue of driver’s licenses differently. Check with your local department of motor vehicles on whether you will be able to renew your driver’s license if DACA goes away. It might be a good idea to renew your driver’s license if you are eligible now.
- If you were planning on traveling outside of the U.S., talk this plan through with your lawyer. There is now a lot of risk (even more than before) about traveling on Advanced Parole.
- Come up with a plan. If you applied for DACA on your own, talk to a lawyer to make sure there is no way you can change your status to something more permanent. If you already know that there is no path fo you at this time, make sure your family and loved ones know what to do if you are picked up by ICE. Consider doing a power of attorney for your property, cars, and children.
In short, the fight is not over until it’s over. Stay informed about efforts to save DACA. For as many opponents as there are against, there is a community of lawyers, scholars, and everyday citizens ready to defend DACA.