If you have heard that DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is simply a program for international folks – forget that notion.
If you have similarly thought that DACA is for every immigrant in the United States of America, scratch that too.
In fact, I want you to erase all thoughts you have had about individuals who qualify for this program. Go all Men in Black on yourself. Or imagine that Will Smith has appeared in front of you to perform this wonderful favor, looking as handsome as ever. Except, pretend the tube shaped object known as a neutralizer is only directed at a specific thread of thoughts within your mind – understandings about DACA recipients. It is a topic that deserves not only attention but an open mind.
Individuals who receive a temporary authorization to remain in the U.S. have to meet specific criteria set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In order to be eligible for DACA individuals must:
- have entered the United States before their 16th birthday
- be at least 15 years of age (unless they are in deportation proceedings, have a voluntary departure order, or have a deportation order, and are not in immigration detention) and be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
- have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and on every day since August 15, 2012
- not have a lawful immigration status on June 15, 2012 (must be undocumented or have an expired immigration status)
- have graduated from high school (or obtained a certificate of completion, or a general education development (GED) certificate), or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or U.S. armed forces, or “be in school” on the date you submit your DACA application.
- have not been convicted of a significant misdemeanor offense or a felony offense (a federal, state, or local criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year)
- not pose a threat to national security or public safety (not a precisely defined term, but the DHS has indicated this may include gang membership, participation in criminal activities, or participation in activities that threaten the U.S.)
In other words, there is an abundance of hoops that individuals must jump through before the DHS will even consider granting them deferred action, which by the way also requires one to go through a renewal process every two years, and costs $495 (with fee exemptions available only in very limited circumstances). Not to mention, permission to work requires an additional application known as an employment authorization document.
I am sure you noticed that some of the requirements are simply statements describing law-abiding individuals, and that is the exact thought one must keep in mind when thinking about DACA recipients. They may be undocumented, yet they are tax-paying individuals, who do not receive Medicaid or Obamacare, simply trying to gain an education and make a living in the country that is most likely the only one they have ever truly known. DACA does not grant them access to a lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. It allows them to remain in the U.S. temporarily without fear of deportation. That seems like the least they should get for contributing to the well being of this country’s society.
You can visit the website of the National Immigration Law Center and the Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security, which features the newest information on DACA regulations, for more information.