Articles Posted in DACA/DAPA

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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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On the heels of being named “Person of the Year” by TIME magazine, a new interview with President-elect Donald J. Trump reveals new information regarding the former business tycoon’s stance on illegal immigration. As we have previously reported, throughout his campaign the President-elect Donald Trump vowed to crackdown on illegal immigration, claiming that he would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States unlawfully during. Among other things, Trump also campaigned on the platform that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program once and for all; a program which to this date has shielded hundreds of thousands of young undocumented persons from deportation, and provided them with temporary work authorization. The lives of these young undocumented immigrants have in large part been shaped by the passage of DACA, and the false sense of security it brought them. Today, their lives are in a very fragile state, with the uncertain future of what may happen to this program under a Trump administration, and the looming possibility of their removal from the United States, given that USCIS now possesses vital information regarding their identities and whereabouts. Ever since his election, Trump has desperately attempted to unite the nation. His administration has endeavored to pick up the broken pieces that were left behind by his polarizing campaign rhetoric. In recent months, we have seen Trump dramatically soften his stance on immigration in what may be described as futile efforts to unify the country.

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On June 23, 2016 the United States Supreme Court made headlines when it affirmed a federal court’s decision in United States v. Texas, preventing the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. An eight-person bench delivered a single one-line decision on the ruling stating, “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” This controversial decision ultimately resulted in the halt of the expansion of the DACA and DAPA programs, leaving these programs in legal limbo. The DACA and DAPA programs were first introduced by President Barack Obama two years ago, as part of a series of executive actions on immigration. With the passage of these programs, the Obama administration hoped that the Republican controlled House of Representatives would be persuaded to discuss the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. This effort proved fruitless. Republican Congressmen and women not only refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform, they politicized the issue of immigration altogether, blocking the President’s Supreme Court nomination following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in order to prevent the Supreme Court from becoming liberal. Together, these programs would have shielded nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation by giving them “deferred status,” and would have provided applicants with a temporary three-year employment authorization card. Although these measures proved short of an amnesty, they were made in response to Congress’s refusal to pass meaningful immigration reform for the undocumented population living in the United States.

The expansion of the DACA program would have increased the population eligible to apply for employment authorization to people of any current age, who had entered the United States before the age of 16, and who could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010. Similarly, the DAPA program would have shielded millions of parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents from deportation if they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010, and pass the required background checks.

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There is no denying that the election of Donald Trump as next President of the United States has dealt a huge blow to the immigration reform effort and diminished any hope for the passage of broader legal immigration reform. We had hoped that with the election of Hillary Clinton we would see an increase in immigration levels for highly skilled workers, as well as increased visa opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. While the news of Donald Trump’s election was a big setback for immigration in general, polling continues to suggest that people across the United States are willing to support fairness in dealing with the undocumented immigrant population in a sensible and human way. By contrast, most Americans disapprove of passing broad legal immigration reform that would benefit foreign workers.

Donald Trump was able to win the favor of a great number of Americans because of his critical view of programs like NAFTA that he believes has allowed American jobs to go overseas. Trump has blamed the U.S. government for allowing programs like the H-1B worker program to exist, saying that foreign workers are taking American jobs. We can expect to see Donald Trump take a restrictive view on legal immigration, keeping immigration levels within historic norms. Donald Trump has until recently softened his tone on illegal immigration, claiming that his priority is to deport only dangerous criminals residing in the United States unlawfully, although his 10-point plan contradicts his recent stance.

It is likely that the Republican House and the Senate will introduce legislation designed to benefit American workers and the economy, and focus less on creating immigration opportunities for foreign workers. Similarly, the Trump administration will likely focus on job creation, and less on passing any meaningful legal immigration reform.

The program that may come under fire by the Trump administration is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative which began on June 15, 2012 as part of an executive order introduced by President Barack Obama. Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program incorrectly calling it an “amnesty.” In actuality, DACA is not amnesty and does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or even citizenship. DACA merely shields the individual from deportation and allows them to legally obtain employment in the United States for a temporary period of time.

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New Jersey’s 4th largest city, Elizabeth, is soon to become one of several municipalities in New Jersey to offer photo identification cards for the undocumented immigrant population, and other underserved members of the community such as homeless persons. On Tuesday, city council members voted unanimously to approve a city ordinance benefitting undocumented immigrants who do not have any form of photo identification. A second and final vote on the ordinance is expected next month. According to the U.S. Census nearly half of the residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey are foreign-born persons. Elizabeth is only one of many cities in New Jersey that has considered adopting a municipal identification card program. Recognizing that New Jersey is home to a large population of undocumented immigrants, various cities in New Jersey already have a municipal identity card program incorporating the undocumented immigrant population into society. New Haven, Newark, Roselle, Perth Amboy, Highland Park, Asbury Park, Trenton, and many other cities have adopted some form of municipal identification card.

The photo identification cards will provide basic information including the person’s name, date of birth, address, and an expiration date. Only persons 14 years of age or older will be able to obtain these photo identification cards. Although these cards will not be a form of federal identification, and do not confer any type of immigration benefit, or employment authorization, having access to a photo identification is very important for the undocumented immigrant population for various reasons. First, it is nearly impossible to obtain certain benefits without a valid photo identification. For example, many undocumented immigrants are unable to open a bank account, access basic government services, enter government buildings, fill prescriptions, obtain medical care, enroll in adult courses, or receive state benefits they are entitled to, but cannot receive without presenting a valid photo ID. Second, this measure will be especially important for persons who cannot obtain a driver’s license, passport, or other government issued ID by any other means. Third, because many undocumented immigrants cannot open a bank account since they do not have a form of identification, undocumented persons are often targeted as walking ATMs because they carry large amounts of cash.

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On June 15, 2012 President Barack Obama first unveiled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to the world. In his 2012 announcement the President divulged that the DACA initiative would allow certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children the opportunity to be shielded from deportation and the right to a temporary work permit. To be eligible individuals were required to meet several guidelines to receive ‘deferred action’ for a period of two years, subject to renewal. USCIS began to accept applications for the DACA initiative on August 15, 2012.

At its core, ‘deferred action’ is the use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal from the United States for a certain period of time. Although deferred action grants such deferment, it does not provide the individual lawful status and it is not a path to permanent residency.

On November 20, 2014 the President unveiled two initiatives that would expand the population eligible to obtain Deferred Action. Additionally, the President announced a new initiative called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). To be eligible for the expanded DACA program applicants were required to a) have entered the United States before the age of 16; b) demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010; and pass required background checks. The initiative would also extend the period of ‘deferred action’ and work authorization to three years rather than two years.

Similarly, parents of U.S. Citizens and LPRs would be also be eligible for deferred action and employment authorization for a three-year period if a) they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010 and b) pass required backgrounds checks. On February 16, 2015 just two days before applications would begin to be accepted for the expanded DACA and DAPA programs, a temporary injunction halted these programs from going into effect. The controversy that followed regarding these programs led to a federal lawsuit known as United States v. Texas which made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. There the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 vote preventing these programs from going into effect.

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3704180135_8cf17fa711_zA new settlement reached against the state of Texas will make it easier for undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens to obtain birth certificates for their American born children. In 2013, Nancy Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, gave birth to a baby girl in a Texas hospital, although she was unlawfully present in the United States. After the birth, she visited a Texas county office to obtain the child’s birth certificate. Much to her surprise her request was met with resistance when county officials notified her that without presentation of proper documents, she would not be able to obtain her child’s birth certificate proving the child’s U.S. Citizenship.

In response, Hernandez along with dozens of other immigrants, filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas alleging that the state was blocking them from obtaining their children’s birth certificates, a right that is protected by the Constitution. Texas officials had previously outlined specific documents that undocumented parents needed to present, in order to obtain their children’s birth certificates.

Last week, Texas settled the lawsuit promising that the state would expand the list of documents parents were required to present in order to obtain their children’s birth certificates. Under the settlement, Mexican immigrants will be able to present a Mexican voter identification card to obtain their children’s birth certificates. These voter identification cards can be obtained from Mexican consulates in the United States. Parents from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, will be able to present documents certified by their consulates in the United States.

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Today the Supreme Court of the United States dealt a strong blow to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration issuing a single one-line decision on the ruling “the judgment of the lower court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Nearly two years ago, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration after the Republican controlled House of Representatives refused to tackle the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. As part of his executive actions on immigration, President Obama announced the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and introduced a new program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, (DAPA) designed to shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Following these initiatives, USCIS announced that applications for expanded DACA and the new DAPA program would begin to be accepted on February 18, 2015.

The DACA program would have expanded the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years. The new DAPA program would have granted parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents the opportunity to request deferred action and employment authorization for a three year period, on the condition that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010 and pass required background checks.

On February 16, 2015 just two days before the programs were scheduled to go into effect, Texas along with 25 other states, filed a temporary court injunction ultimately suspending both programs from going into effect. This action prompted the Obama administration to intervene. For months, the federal government and the State of Texas battled one another in federal court. The court ultimately determined that Texas and at least 25 other status had sufficient ‘standing’ to challenge these programs. In response, the federal government filed an emergency motion to stay, however the motion was eventually denied by the court. This led the government to file a writ of certiorari before the Supreme Court. The fate of Obama’s executive actions grew all the more uncertain with the sudden death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th.  President Obama made desperate attempts to fill the vacated seat by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Efforts to fill the seat were unsuccessful as Republicans vowed to keep Garland from sitting on the bench. Thus, Scalia’s death left behind an eight-person bench, and with no one to fill his seat, the growing possibility of a deadlock within the Supreme Court.

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