DACA and DAPA Immigration Programs

United States Immigration Series

Post No. 9

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

In recent months, President Obama’s DACA and DAPA programs have been making headlines and catching the interest of the nation.  As the 2016 presidential elections approach, DACA and DAPA will be important immigration issues the candidates must address.  This two-part series explains the programs, their importance and the controversy surrounding them.

In 2010, the Obama administration introduced the DREAM Act, a multi-phase process to save certain undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide path to citizenship. The act failed to become law because it lacked support in the US Senate.

By Gshikula1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Consequently, in 2012, President Obama unilaterally implemented a program called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which included provisions similar to those of the DREAM Act.  Under DACA, “deferred action” means a stay on deportation for those illegal immigrants who met the program’s eligibility guidelines.  To qualify for DACA relief, an individual must:

  • have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012;
  • have come to the United States before reaching his/her 16th birthday;
  • have continuously resided in the United States at least since June 15, 2007 (but before June 15, 2012) until present;
  • have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 as well as at the time of applying for deferred action with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS);
  • have entered the US without inspection before June 15, 2012, or the illegal alien’s lawful immigration status (for example, if s/he entered with a tourist or other non-immigrant visa) shall have expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • currently be in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

US-Mexico Border Pedestrian Crossing, Tijuana I, Toksave [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

US-Mexico Border Pedestrian Crossing, Tijuana
I, Toksave [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Under DACA, apart from the stay on deportation, illegal immigrants are granted two-year renewable work permits and are given a social security number.  The program also allows the person to apply for a driver’s license as well as a document to travel abroad.  Equally important, successful candidates are eligible for the federal earned income tax credit and in some states, DACA allows them to pay in-state tuition rates for public colleges and universities. Illegal immigrants who are in the custody of the US immigration authorities can use DACA as a defense to stay deportation.

As stated above, DACA stays the deportation of qualified undocumented aliens.  This executive action program has proved to be a success: for the period ending June 2014, an estimated 580,000 individuals benefitted from DACA.  Unfortunately, however, DACA is only a temporary relief program that provides no lasting benefits. If the DREAM Act had become law, it would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of similarly situated illegal immigrants. DACA does not confer lawful status on the immigrant, provide a path to citizenship or alter the individual’s immigration status.

The DACA program provides protection for undocumented young people.  Its counterpart, DAPA, was introduced to protect certain undocumented parents of US citizens.  In November 2014, the Obama administration initiated the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), sometimes referred to as Deferred Action for Parent Accountability.

To be eligible for deferred action under DAPA, an individual must:

  • be the parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  • have continuously lived in the US since January 1, 2010;
  • have been present in the US on November 20, 2014, and it is also likely that the applicant will need to have been continuously present in the US from November 20, 2014 until s/he applies for DAPA relief;
  • have been an unlawful immigrant on November 20, 2014: the applicant must have entered the US illegally, or, if the applicant entered lawfully, his/hers lawful immigration status must have expired before November 20, 2014;
  • not have lawful immigration status at the time of applying for DAPA relief; and
  • not have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, including any felonies and some misdemeanors.

Georgia Army National Guard eyes in the sky over Texas' Rio Grande Valley sector By Maj. Will Cox (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1169507) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Georgia Army National Guard eyes in the sky over Texas’ Rio Grande Valley sector
By Maj. Will Cox (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1169507) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The DAPA program does not provide amnesty or a path to citizenship, but it affords temporary relief to undocumented parents.  The processing of DAPA applications was to have begun in late February 2015, but a Texas federal court has temporarily halt the implementation of the program.  Our next blog in the immigration series will have more details on the legal controversies of the DACA and DAPA programs.

TransLegal is available to help corporations and individuals navigate the intricacies of the US immigration system.  Call us with your questions.


1 thought on “DACA and DAPA Immigration Programs

  1. Pingback: DACA and DAPA Immigration Programs — Part II | TransLegal

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