Thursday, August 15, 2013

DACA: Lessons from a Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") program went into effect.  The DACA program is a temporary measure, implemented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that allows eligible individuals to apply for a discretionary determination on the part of the Department to defer a removal action.  If approved, the deferred action is valid for a period of two years and is renewable.  Recipients of the DACA program are eligible to work with approved employment authorization documents.   According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS"), 430,236 applicants have been approved for DACA since August 15, 2012. 

This past year has certainly been a good one for those 430,236 individuals who have been approved. With their work permits, they have been able to legally obtain social security numbers and, in most cases, driver's licenses.  This has allowed them to come out of the shadows of fear and into the light of renewed confidence.  It has been a big step for many of them who have been living in the United States for most of their lives. Yet because of the actions of their parents and others in bringing them into the United States as children illegally, they were prevented from living their lives free from the fear of deportation.  Now, DACA has given them a renewable reprieve of two years from that fear.  It is quite possible that many of the 430,236 DACA recipients might never again be faced with the terror of being removed from the country because of the actions of their parents and others that were taken in a time that many of them were not even old enough to remember.

For these fortunate 430,236, DACA has been a wonderful benefit.  However, with this benefit comes responsibility.  DACA has opened many doors for them.   There is the door of seeking and obtaining lawful employment.  There is the door of being able to drive the streets with a valid driver's license.  For many, there is the door to higher education.   All of these doors, and more, have opened in the last year for these 430,236.  They have the responsibility to take the opportunity of the open doors and walk through the threshold to a better life.  They have the responsibility to show the rest of the country that they have the potential for success.  But, that is only possible is they seize the opportunity of the open doors. 

Finally, the 430,236 must understand that DACA cannot be the end for them.  They must strive for more.  DACA is not legal status.  An individual who has been awarded DACA is not in legal immigrant status as a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or visa holder is.  The 430,236 continue to be in an undocumented or illegal status.   They must want more.  The House of Representatives is working on a KIDS Act that would allow many of the 430,236 and others like them to finally gain legal status in this country. However, many of those who would benefit from such a sweeping law have expressed disinterest.  The energy to see real change in their lives from just a few years ago has now turned into complacency.  Many have grown content with their new non-status.  It has become a sad current affair.  But, it does not have to be this way.  For the 430,236, and those that will join their ranks in the future, it cannot remain this way.  They must want legal status.  They must seize the opportunity of the open doors.  Only then, will they see real and lasting change in their lives.

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