For the past two decades, there has been a considerable influx of illegal immigrants in the United States. Research indicates that an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are currently living in the United States. Of this number, approximately 1.6 million entered the United States legally with visas or green cards and have overstayed their visa period by more than 90 days. The other 9.2 million entered the United States illegally, whether by crossing the border in an unsecured area or crossing through a security checkpoint. However, the US government has been taking steps to curb illegal immigration. That has led to several programs including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
What is DACA? Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was created by President Obama’s executive action in 2012. It allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to apply for deportation relief and work authorization. The executive action was necessitated by the failure of Congress over a decade ago to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In reality, Congress has not managed to pass minor reforms such as fixing the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act, which was brought before them in 2014 by President Obama. It would have allowed families who had entered the US illegally to receive permanent residency if they were legal US residents and had a child born here.
What Led Up To DACA?
Since 2000, approximately 500,000 undocumented immigrants have entered the United States every year. Most of them were from Mexico. This influx led to a growing backlash from voters, who were angered by the pervasive increase in undocumented immigrants. A California ballot initiative in 1994, known as Proposition 187, sought to deny undocumented immigrants access to public services, including healthcare and education for their children. Though the measure was found unconstitutional in federal court, it paved the way for other states to implement similar measures.
In 1996, Congress passed a law prohibiting certain non-criminal immigrants from entering the US and denying them food stamps and public housing benefits. The law gained support primarily from anti-immigrant groups and Republican lawmakers, but it had little support from Democrats who argued that it would lead to racial profiling of Latinos. This measure was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997, and the 1996 law was expanded to ban all non-criminal undocumented immigrants in the US.
The situation continued to escalate throughout the late 1990s, and early 2000s as attacks on undocumented immigrants increased. In 2000, Arizona passed SB 1070, which banned all undocumented immigrants from schools. The law only served to inflame further people who already had negative feelings towards undocumented immigrants in the region. The Supreme Court in 2010 found such a law unconstitutional.
In 2006, Florida passed a similar law known as SB 1070, which banned undocumented immigrants from participating in injuries or voting. In 2008, California passed a law prohibiting state and local agencies from sharing data with the federal government on undocumented immigrants. The legislation also barred police from enforcing federal immigration laws if it could lead to racial profiling. All of these laws served to alienate Latinos in the US further.
Many people have applied for DACA but have been denied. There are many reasons why potential recipients might be denied. Individuals looking to apply for or renew DACA can use this article to help determine their eligibility and appeal if needed. The main requirements of the program are taken from 8 USC Section 1621 and can be found below:
Applicants must meet the following criteria:
- They came to the United States before their 16th birthday
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15th, 2007
- Were below 31 years by June 15th, 2012
- Had no lawful status on or before June 15th, 2012
- Are currently in school, graduated high school, or obtained a GED certificate before June 15th, 2012.
- Applicants cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors. They must also not pose a threat to public safety or national security.
What Does DACA Do?
For those eligible for DACA protection, the program allows them to work legally and travel outside of America without fear of deportation from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). They can also seek work authorization.
People have criticized the program for making it possible to live and work in the country illegally. Under DACA, most applicants can remain in the US. That means they could work under the table or continue to live here indefinitely. They cannot apply for permanent residency because there is no pathway provided under DACA. Since they cannot receive a green card or citizenship, they will never be eligible for future US-born children.
Is There Any Way To Protect DACA Recipients?
The best way for beneficiaries of DACA protection to avoid deportation is by applying for renewal before October 5th or asking someone else who shares their address (such as a family member) to do so. If you are a DACA beneficiary and your work permit has expired, you will be required to leave the country and try to enter the US through an official checkpoint. If you are denied entry into the United States, you will be placed into deportation proceedings.