Articles Posted in DACA/DAPA

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As of today, lawmakers in Congress have 115 days to pass legislation allowing more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children, the opportunity to remain in the United States lawfully.

If Congress does not act by the March 5th deadline terminating the DACA program, it is likely that the President will give Congress more time to pass such legislation. The President has reiterated that he wants the solution to come from Congress, and will not act unilaterally to shield Dreamers from deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled to Congress that the future of DACA remains in their hands, recognizing that they have an “opportunity to do something historic.” Republican politicians have thus far shown their willingness to work with Democrats to pass legislation that would grant Dreamers not only protection from deportation and the ability to reside in the United States lawfully, but an opportunity to obtain citizenship. Notoriously conservative Republican Senator, Roy Blunt, along with others has said that he would be willing to support legislation granting Dreamers a path to citizenship, and said as early as Tuesday that deporting Dreamers to a country they did not grow up in would be “totally unreasonable.”

President Trump of course has said that he does not support legislation that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship, however a majority of Congress could override a Presidential veto should such a piece of legislation come to pass. Legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation would however come with certain conditions. The President, as well as Republicans, are pushing for provisions that would secure funding for the wall to be constructed along the U.S./Mexico border and enhance border security. Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse has said that the consensus among Congress is that “it is the responsibility of Congress, and not the administration to make immigration law.”

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Supreme Court Dismisses One of Two Travel Ban Cases

On October 10, 2017, in a one-page order, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the Maryland case, Trump, President of U.S., Et Al. v. Int’l Refugee Assistance, Et Al.,  which sought to block a key provision of Executive Order No. 13,780 temporarily suspending the entry of aliens outlined under Section 2(c). The Supreme Court has dismissed the case because the provision at issue expired on September 24, 2017 and no longer presents a “live case or controversy” for the court to resolve. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and sent the case back to the lower courts to dismiss the case as moot.

However, the Supreme Court did not act to remove the case, Trump, President of U.S., Et Al. v. Hawaii, Et Al., from its docket, in which the state of Hawaii joined by other states, called on the court to issue an injunction, stopping the federal government from enforcing a travel ban on individuals from six Muslim majority countries as well as refugees. The travel ban at issue, in that case, began on June 29, 2017 and expired on September 27, 2017. The refugee provision of the act however will not expire until October 24, 2017. Given the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Maryland case, it is likely that the Court will also dismiss the Hawaii case once the refugee provision has expired.

On September 24, 2017, the President revised Executive Order No. 13,780 for a third time adding Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela to its travel ban, and removing Sudan. The third revision of the travel ban will go into effect on October 18, 2017. The Supreme Court did not address the administration’s newly revised travel ban in its order.

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President Trump and Democratic leaders met on Thursday in an unexpected meeting to negotiate the future of the now defunct Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that allowed undocumented immigrants, who came to the United States as children, the opportunity to apply for employment authorization and obtain “deferred status” to shield them from deportation. During the meeting, the President made clear that any legislation that would protect Dreamers from deportation would need to make important concessions that would fall in line with the President’s hard line stance on immigration, such as enhancing border security along the Southwestern border, and funding the construction of a wall between U.S. and Mexico.

A day after the meeting, the President denied reports that the he had struck a deal with Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, that would exclude the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico, after the duo released the following statement implying that such a deal had been made, “We had a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”

According to the Trump administration, the President stated during the meeting that he would only support legislation to protect Dreamers from deportation, if that legislation included “massive” border security enhancements.” After the meeting, the President tweeted, “No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote.”

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In early August of this year, reports began to emerge indicating that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was planning a large-scale nationwide immigration operation, to crack down on undocumented criminals and gang members. The coordinated effort which purported to detain criminals and gang members, known within the agency as “Operation Maga,” was set to begin on September 17th and was expected to continue over a five-day period.

Thanks to an internal memo circulated within the agency, details quickly came to light of the operation. According to an internal memo, ICE had been planning to conduct the nationwide immigration raids since at least mid-August of this year. In addition, law enforcement officials reported that the immigration raids were expected to target 8,400 undocumented immigrations, which according to the internal memo would make Operation Maga, “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE.” Officials familiar with the operation reported that while the agency instructed officials to target only persons of interest, including gang members or perpetrators of serious crimes, DACA recipients not suspected of crimes, could inevitably have been detained in the frenzy.

When news outlets began to question ICE regarding the rumored raids, the agency had reported that it was “not able to speculate about potential future targeted enforcement actions.”

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This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration is ending DACA, a program that began under former President Barack Obama, which allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, the opportunity to obtain employment authorization and be shielded from deportation. This decision comes on the heels of swirling rumors regarding the President’s intent to terminate the program. Despite the President’s seemingly sympathetic attitude toward the plight of “Dreamers,” today’s announcement means that the DACA program will be phased out.

Effective immediately, USCIS will not accept new initial requests for DACA, but will allow current DACA recipients with permits expiring between now and March 5, 2018 to apply for a final 2-year renewal of their status and obtain employment authorization.

A conflicted President Donald Trump issued a statement following the announcement in which he defended his decision stating, “in the best interests of our country, and in keeping with the obligations of my office, the Department of Homeland Security will begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption. While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

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As early as Friday, September 1, 2017, President Donald Trump is expected to make a formal announcement regarding his decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that started on November 20, 2014 under President Barack Obama. The DACA program was introduced as part of a series of executive actions, signed into law by President Obama, to shield hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Young undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA were those who:

(1) were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;

(2) came to the United States before reaching the age of 16;

(3) maintained continuous residence in the country since June 15, 2007;

(4) were physically present in the country on June 15, 2012 and at the time of making a request for consideration of deferred status;

(5) were currently in school, graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or were an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; and

(6) had not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, and did not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Individuals who qualified for DACA were given a renewable 2-year temporary employment authorization card (EAD) and “deferred status” to shield them from deportation. It is estimated that more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants have received relief from deportation through this program.

A senior administration official has reported to Fox News as of today, August 31, 2017, that the President is expected to announce the end of the program, despite challenges from the GOP to keep the program intact. The official stated that although Trump will announce the end of the program, he will allow current DACA holders to remain in the program, and have lawful status in the United States until their employment authorization cards run their course. This means that the DACA program will not end abruptly, rather the program will be phased out, and immigrants will no longer have the option of renewing their benefits once they have expired. In recent years the number of DACA applicants has dwindled. According to USCIS statistics, in fiscal year 2016, 40,378 initial DACA applications were approved, while 83,788 renewal applications were approved that same year. This is in stark contrast to the 472,131 applications approved in 2013.

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On July 26, 2017 Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3440 the House version of the Dream Act of 2017, a bill that would give young people who were brought to the United States as children, a pathway to obtain conditional legal permanent residence, provided these individuals meet certain requirements.

Under this act, certain qualifying individuals would receive cancellation of removal, and the opportunity to adjust their status to conditional permanent residence, provided the individual has been a long-term resident of the United States, entered the United States as a child, and has not been convicted of serious criminal offenses.

While this Act is still in its early stages, it has received widespread bipartisan support, signaling a serious commitment to shield DREAMers from deportation on both sides of the aisle.

Requirements:

Under this act, to qualify for conditional permanent residence an alien would be required to:

  • Have continuous physical presence in the United States (4 years before the date of the enactment of the act);
  • Have been younger than 18 years of age on the date on which the alien initially entered the United States without inspection;
  • Be admitted to an institution of higher education;
  • Earned a high school diploma, or a commensurate alternative award from a public or private high school, or obtained a GED under State law, or a high school equivalency diploma in the United States, or enrolled in secondary school, or in an education program assisting students in obtaining a regular high school diploma or equivalency, or passing a GED exam or other similar State-authorized exam;
  • The alien must have been found inadmissible under paragraph (2), (3), (6)(E), (6)(G), (8), (10) (A), (10) (C), or (10) (D) of section 212(a) of the INA;

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Reports have recently surfaced revealing that a Dreamer, 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, has been arrested and is currently in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents in Seattle, Washington. Medina was brought to the United States when he was only 7 years old and maintains Mexican nationality. In 2014, Medina first applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and was approved after satisfying the specific and rigorous criteria outlined by DHS qualifying him for the program. As part of the routine application process, Medina underwent an extensive background check, and was cleared by USCIS, resulting in the approval of his application for Deferred Action. The approval granted him the opportunity to remain in the United States under lawful “deferred status” for a 2-year period, subject to renewal. Two years later, Medina applied for a renewal of his deferred action status, and was approved for a second time, granting him an additional two-year period of “deferred action.” Medina underwent a second background check as part of the renewal process, and again was cleared.

On February 10, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrived at the home of Ramirez’s father with an arrest warrant to detain his father. His father granted ICE officers permission to enter the home so that they could inform his sons about his arrest. ICE agents questioned Daniel Ramirez asking him if he was lawfully present in the United States. Daniel notified the agents that he was lawfully present and had a work permit. His brother, also a DACA recipient, who was present during the immigration raid, suggested that he remain silent and decline to answer additional questions. Ramirez was then arrested and detained by ICE agents, although Ramirez presented the agents with his employment authorization card that was issued pursuant to his approval under the DACA program, and clearly identified him as a DACA recipient with a ‘C-33’ classification code. Ramirez also told the officers several times that he was a DACA recipient lawfully present in the United States.

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With the onset of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, rumors have swirled about whether the newly elected President will terminate the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented persons who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as “Dreamers.” The DACA program was made possible by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, with the passage of an executive order signed into law in 2012. Although Trump has openly stated that he plans to dismantle the DACA program within his first 100 days in office, in the days following his election, he backtracked his stance on the issue in an interview for TIME magazine, and instead promised that in its place, Dreamers would receive temporary “protection” from the federal government which would allow them to remain in the United States lawfully without fear of deportation. Although Trump did not fully elaborate on the details of such governmental immunity, his remarks gave Dreamers hope that the DACA program might not end after all, or at the very least that similar temporary relief might be put in its place.

Aside from Trump’s political motivations, several senators have introduced bipartisan legislation in the form of the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy). The BRIDGE Act was introduced in early December, before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and is designed to protect Dreamers from deportation by allowing them to obtain “provisional protected presence” for a three-year period similar to the “deferred status” given to Dreamers under the DACA program. If passed the BRIDGE Act will also allow Dreamers to keep their temporary employment authorization (EAD) benefits. It must be noted that at this time the BRIDGE Act is still only a bill. The BRIDGE Act has not yet been signed into law, and no other bill has yet been passed protecting Dreamers from deportation.

Many of our clients and readers are stuck in this “legal” limbo and are unsure of what the future of DACA may hold. The good news is that because the DACA program has not yet been dismantled, DACA recipients are still protected from deportation by the “deferred status” they have received from USCIS. If you have received deferred status which has not yet expired, it is recommended that you obtain a stamp in your foreign passport from the Department of Homeland Security that indicates that you have been “paroled” into the United States based on your grant of DACA or “deferred status.” A person who has been granted deferred status may seek temporary admission to the United States as a parolee. A parolee is an alien who is inadmissible to the United States, but may be allowed to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons or when the alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. The grant of “deferred” action allows a person who does not otherwise meet the technical requirements for a visa or is inadmissible to the United States, permission to enter the United States on “parole” for a temporary period of time. Dreamers may obtain a stamp in their passport as evidence of this temporary status or “parole” by appearing before a customs official at a port of entry (such as an international airport) with evidence of their approved DACA status and employment authorization card. Upon inspection, the stamp will indicate to immigration officials that you have entered the country legally and that you have been granted parole based on your DACA. Although parole will not grant Dreamers formal admission to the United States, it will grant an alien “temporary” status to remain in the country lawfully. The stamp, for now, will allow Dreamers to breathe a sigh of relief since it serves as proof of the alien’s “legal” admission to the United States. Dreamers who marry U.S. Citizens in the future may use their “parole” stamp and I-94 arrival/departure record as evidence of their legal admission to the United States to apply for permanent residency.

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On Friday December 9, 2016, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, introduced the “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy” BRIDGE act before Congress to protect Dreamers from deportation, and allow them to keep the temporary employment authorization (EAD) they currently possess. This legislation was introduced to provide temporary relief to the young, undocumented, immigrant population that was issued Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or “deferred status” by President Barack Obama in 2012. Amid mounting pressure to protect the existing DACA program, as well as feelings of fear and uncertainty surrounding the future of the program, several Democratic and Republican Senators have come together to save the program from the Trump administration including Senators Dianne Feinstein, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake. As you may remember, DACA was first introduced by President Obama in 2012 to provide undocumented immigrants who came to the United States at a young age, the opportunity to apply for employment authorization, and be protected from deportation. DACA is not a form of amnesty, and does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship. DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers” in the media, are undocumented persons who came to the U.S. as young children, and are pursuing the American Dream through higher education or military service in the United States.

Last week, just before Congress went into recess before the winter holiday, Senator Graham along with other Senators introduced the “Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy” (BRIDGE) act which will give current DACA holders “provisional protected presence” for a three year period, as well as undocumented persons who are eligible for the program, but who have not yet applied.  Although this act is not a revelation, given that this “provisional protected presence” sounds a lot like “deferred status” which DACA has already conferred upon DACA recipients, the legislation does promise to protect this population of undocumented immigrants from deportation, and allow them to continue living, working, and studying in the United States without the need to fear deportation. The criteria will also be the same as the eligibility criteria for the DACA program. At the very least this piece of legislation if passed, will protect current DACA holders from losing the temporary employment authorization they already possess, and will shield young undocumented people who would otherwise be eligible for the program, from deportation under the Trump administration.

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