One short sentence is what we were waiting for. “Dreamers” – children who came to the U.S. without immigration authorization before turning 16 – will continue to be protected from deportation for now. On June 15, 2017, the Trump administration announced in the very last sentence of a memo: “The June 15, 2012 memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.” That was the fifth anniversary of the original DACA announcement in 2012. The rest of the memo rescinded a related program, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents) that would have protected parents of U.S. citizen and green card holder children from deportation. That program never went into effect because courts stopped it.
DACA is not a green card, it’s not citizenship, it’s not even a visa. It only protects you from deportation, for two years at a time, and allows you to work. But that’s huge for the hundreds of thousands of young people who have DACA. Trump vowed to end DACA during his campaign but has since changed his mind, thankfully.
What does this mean for those who have DACA or were thinking about applying? You can apply or renew as long as you meet all the requirements outlined here on the USCIS website. But you need to be careful when you apply or renew to make sure you don’t have issues that make your application a problem, such as a DUI conviction. And it’s not complete protection from arrest by ICE. Under Trump, ICE has arrested some DACA recipients and deported or tried to deport some. But if you still meet the requirements and have no convictions or other issues, you have a strong case to stay in the U.S.
Most of the public, and even politicians, support treating Dreamers as a special category. In many cases they came here as small children and were unaware of the complexities of immigration law. Often they didn’t realize they didn’t have any lawful immigration status in the U.S. until many years later. Then they discovered they could not legally work, get a driver’s license, get financial aid for college which meant college was unaffordable. DACA has changed that. About 800,000 people have been granted DACA which also allowed them to get work permits, go to college, and get a driver’s license. Hopefully the laws will be changed to allow them to apply for a more permanent status someday soon.
It’s a little ray of sunshine in the current bleak world of U.S. immigration.