Presidential actions alter program for undocumented citizens

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival renewals impacted

BY SANDRA RIANO
Opinions Editor

On June 15, 2012, President Obama initiated a policy that granted certain benefits to children who have temporary residence status and have met the qualifications. This policy known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) was started after Congress rejected the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) , which would have provided permanent residency to those who qualify. Early DACA applicants are beginning to renew their documentation because their original documents expire after a two year period; and the process can take several months. Each application costs $465, with an additional $85 biometrics (fingerprinting) fee according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Once requirements are met and then approved, applicants can apply for a work authorization card and receive their Social Security numbers. They are then eligible for credit cards and drivers licenses depending on state laws. Almost all states, including New Jersey allow applicants to apply for a driver’s license. DACA applicants can also leave the country and re-enter legally with travel documents, which allows international travel for either humanitarian, employment or educational reasons that are approved by the government.

In order to have been eligible for the original DACA program a person must have been in the United States before their 16th birthday, been at least 15-years-old but younger than 31, have resided in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007 and must have been physically in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and during their entire application process. Other eligibility requirements include having no criminal record and by extension posing no national security threat, being an honorably discharged member of the United States Armed Forces, being enrolled in high school or college or obtaining a GED/graduating from high school.

On Nov. 20, 2014 President Barack Obama made an executive action that changed the guidelines for DACA eligibility.

The recent extension to the policy allows for applicants to be of any age as long as they were in the United States before they were 16-years-old. The initial policy required applicants to have resided within the U.S since before June 15, 2007. With the 2014 extension, applicants who were here before Jan. 1, 2010 can now apply. This additional three year window widens eligibility for undocumented citizens according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. Since applications for them begin soon, there is no current estimate of individuals affected.

“It’s unfair to punish these children for a decision their parent made,” said Seth Dyer, a music major at CCM. “They didn’t consciously make this decision them- selves.”

In an attempt to avoid severing families the extension will allow the undocumented parents of U.S citizens or permanent residents to apply for a similar program entitled Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or “DAPA”. The parents must also have been present in the United States since Jan. 1, 2010 according to the National Immigration Law Center.

The executive order also extends the “deferred” period to three years for all applicants instead of two. These new rules are expanding the eligible population and widening the window of opportunity. This newfound ability to be independent and economically self-sufficient has benefit- ted individuals and families all over the country.

“Undocumented individuals under the age of 16 are probably looking to better themselves in this country, not live off it like some Americans might think.” said Abel Saldana, a communication major at CCM. “Given the chance, they can become a legal citizen and be part of the system.”

This directive is not a law and could be revoked during the next administration so this could be the last renewal for some eligible applicants. Nearly 63 percent of U.S. adults approve of the DACA program, according toa Pew Research Center survey from 2012.

Deferred action means postponed action, in this case postponed action against deportation. These people have spent thousands of dollars on documents and lawyers in order to be given the chance to be a benefit to society. Since DACA applies mainly to young people who came here as children, if they were to be deported they would likely have no one to return to in their home country and they would have to leave behind the only life they’ve ever known.

“If you give somebody the opportunity to pay taxes, they will pay taxes” said Mhammed Idrissi, a Business Administration major at CCM. “If you give somebody the opportunity to become an educated individual and not only an individual but an American, they’re going to become something positive in the future.” Idrissi came to America from Morocco eight years ago.

As of March 2014, almost 700 thousand young people have applied to the program and 553,197 have been approved, according to the Immigration Policy Center. If the directive is repealed by the next administration over a half million young undocumented workers and students will find themselves without jobs and losing out on valuable opportunities. Under the DACA, undocumented people are not considered “unlawfully present” in the United States but do not have “lawful status” or a pathway to citizenship.

 

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