Saturday, August 18, 2012

DACA, DREAM Act and the hope of tomorrow

This past Wednesday, August 15th, signaled a new chapter for over a million individuals in our country. Beginning on that day they were able to apply for Deferred Action, for which if their cases are approved, will give them temporary status in this country and the chance to obtain employment authorization. Many will then exercise their right to seek an advanced parole in order to travel outside of the country.

August 15 was certainly a good day for those that the media call "DREAMers"-- undocumented individuals between the age of 15 and 30, who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday. Unfortunately, "DREAMer" is a misleading term created by news organizations, who feel the incessant need to lasso together groups of people with catchy labels, and a disregard for facts. The term derives from the DREAM Act, a congressional proposal that has been unsuccessful in different versions during the past decade. Most of the versions of the DREAM Act provide temporary residency to those who attend college or join the Armed Forces and permanent residency if they finish a college program or continue in the Armed Forces. The DREAM Act, if it ever were approved, would be a permanent federal law. In contrast, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not a law and is simply a temporary measure. It does not provide any sort of legal residency nor lead to it. DACA does not require that the person attend college, much less graduate from it, in order to qualify. In light of DACA's distinct differences with the DREAM Act, the term "DREAMers" to describe those eligible for DACA is an unfortunate and improper one.

Another difference between the DREAM Act and DACA is that some versions of the former extended eligibility to those up to 35 years old. DACA, on the other hand, requires that the applicant not have been older than 30 years old on June 15, 2012. I am reminded of the story of "Rodolfo".

"Rodolfo" graduated summa cum laude from high school. He went on to college where he excelled in his classes. His future would look bright except for the fact that he is undocumented. His parents brought him to this country illegally when he was just two years old. It was not his choice to come to this country. It was not his decision to be an illegal alien. But, these are the circumstances that he finds himself in. "Rodolfo" graduated college, once again with honors. It took him longer to finish than his classmates. The international student tuition that he had to pay limited the number of classes that he could take at one time. But, he found a way to continue his studies and persevere until he reached his goal--graduation. After college "Rodolfo" dreamed of finally putting his knowledge to work and finding lawful employment. However, he continues to bYe imprisoned by his reality-- he is an undocumented immigrant. On August 15, tears filled "Rodolfo's" eyes. They were not tears of joy. They were of continued frustration. "Rodolfo" turned 31 years old on May 16, 2012, one month too early to be eligible to apply for DACA. There will not be employment authorization for "Rodolfo" under DACA. He will have to continue to wait. Shouldn't a person of "Rodolfo's" caliber and education achievement have a chance to succeed in our country? For "Rodolfo" and others like him, DACA is too little, too late.

The above information is provided for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice or the formation of an attorney/client relationship.

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