DACA update: new statistics and a stalled lawsuit

Certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children may be eligible for temporary deferrals and the right to work under a relatively new program.

Since August 2012, federal immigration authorities have accepted applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as DACA, the discretionary program allows certain undocumented immigrants who are young adults, arrived in the United States as children, have met certain educational milestones or participated honorably in the U.S. military, and have been convicted of no or little serious criminal activity to obtain lawful-presence status, including the right to work lawfully, for two years, subject to reapplication for renewal.

When a DACA application is granted, the individual is does not get lawful status, but rather the right to remain lawfully with any government attempt to remove him or her from the country being deferred at least two years.

The policy behind DACA is that federal immigration resources should be first used to remove people from the country who pose threats of national security or public safety, rather than to target people who came here innocently as children, have contributed to society and remained free of serious criminal activity.

By the numbers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released statistics in August 2015 at the three-year mark of the DACA program (current through June). The numbers show that about 1.2 million initial or renewal applications have been received since the program began; of those about 1.06 million have been approved, 50,000 denied and 100,000 were still pending.

DACA expansion on hold

In November 2014, federal immigration authorities announced an expansion of DACA eligibility criteria and an extension of the two-year removal deferral to three years. In February 2015, a U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, entered a preliminary injunction that ordered federal officials not to implement the DACA expansion. The original program was still allowed to continue.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit refused to lift the injunction on an emergency basis and heard arguments in July 2015 on the merits of lifting the stay. As of this writing in October 2015, the appeals court has not ruled on the matter and the stay continues to prevent the DACA expansion. Many speculate that whatever the court rules, the matter will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court anyway.

Seek legal counsel regarding DACA

If you believe that you might be eligible for relief under DACA, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who can help to assess your situation under the law and assist with preparing all forms and supporting documentation for the application. A thorough application can be important, since review of a denied application may be difficult to obtain.

Another good reason to discuss DACA with an attorney is that there may be other sources of relief available to you under the law of which you are not aware.

From offices in Greensboro, North Carolina, immigration attorney Nancy Quinn of The Quinn Law Firm serve clients seeking DACA status and with other immigration matters.