On his first day in office, President Biden signed a memorandum aiming to “preserve and fortify” the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
The DACA program currently shields close to 700,000 young immigrants, also known as “Dreamers,” who arrived in the United States as children. More specifically, DACA protects these individuals from deportation and gives them work permits, provided they meet specific criteria.
The DACA Program: What Is It?
DACA came into action in 2012 under the Obama administration as a temporary measure to protect young immigrants without legal residency status. The program extends for two years for each participant and is subject to renewal.
Although DACA does not help young people attain citizenship, it permits participants to remain in the U.S., work legally, and obtain employee health insurance.
Legal employment has allowed participants to pursue higher education, qualify for state-funded educational scholarships and loans, and obtain driver’s licenses.
Most DACA participants came to the United States from Mexico or other nations in Central or South America, the Caribbean, or Asia. The average participant is in their mid-20s.
Who qualifies for DACA?
The DACA program is open to applicants who are either enrolled in high school, have a high school diploma or G.E.D., or have enlisted in the military. Individuals with a serious criminal history do not qualify for the program.
Immigrants and the Biden Administration
Under the Trump administration, the future of DACA seemed uncertain at best, leaving many young people to worry about possible deportation.
President Biden seems keen to demonstrate a much more favorable attitude towards immigrants than his predecessor’s hard anti-immigration line. The immigration bill President Biden sent to Congress had a declared goal of “providing pathways to citizenship and strengthening labor protections.” The details included keeping families together, embracing diversity, and promoting immigrant integration.
Immigration Reform: The Dream Act
In March 2021, the House of Representatives reviewed the updated DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which may give millions of young immigrants legal status and a pathway to citizenship. This attention is hopeful news for the close to 11 million people with a precarious legal status currently residing in the U.S. Many of these people know no other home but America.
The Dream Act outlines a process of gaining citizenship in three main steps, as follows.
1. Conditional Permanent Residence
An immigrant may qualify for C.P.R. (conditional permanent resident) status if they participate in the DACA program or if they:
- Immigrated to the U.S. as a child
- Are currently high school students, higher education students, or hold a high school or G.E.D. diploma
- Are clean of major criminal offenses
2. Lawful Permanent Residence
People with a C.P.R. status may be eligible for LPR (lawful permanent residence or green card) if they demonstrate one of the following:
- Two years of higher education in good standing, or a bachelor’s or higher degree from a recognized institution of higher education in the United States
- Two years or more of active service in the U.S. military, with honorable discharge if the person has received a discharge
- Sustained employment for at least three years, with employment authorization during a minimum of 75% of that time
An individual who has maintained LPR status for five years could apply for U.S. citizenship.
Resistance to DACA
Despite President Biden’s support, the DACA program may still face legal hurdles. In 2018, Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas filed a lawsuit against the federal government, challenging the legality of DACA.
The lawsuit claims that the Obama administration had no legal authority to create DACA and that the program has financially encumbered states with significant numbers of illegal immigrants. According to Ken Paxton and the representatives of eight other states, DACA is unconstitutional as it overrides the authority of the U.S. Congress.
The Future of DACA and Young Immigrants
Most DACA participants are productive workers contributing to the U.S. economy. From agricultural workers to teachers, doctors, and software engineers, these are law-abiding, valuable residents who deserve a permanent legal solution.
For now, these people are still stuck in limbo as they await a federal court ruling on DACA. However, they now have increased hope for legal status and asylum as President Biden acknowledges the importance of immigrants as part of America’s human capital.
The Santos Law Offices, PA: Miami Immigration Lawyer Who Always Puts the Client First
Dalyla Santos, an immigration attorney who is the founder and managing attorney at The Santos Law Offices, PA, says, “It is important to understand every legal situation has a solution. We just need to find the right strategy for each particular client.”
Are you searching for an “immigration lawyer near me”? At The Santos Law Offices, PA, we are here to help. Call 866-661-3816 or complete our online form. We offer free consultations, including Saturdays by appointment. For your convenience, we can confer over the phone or Zoom, so you don’t have to deal with traffic or parking. If you prefer to meet us in person, you can visit our Miami or Orlando offices.
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