Law Office of Asel Mukambetova

What is DACA?

What is DACA?

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By Asel Mukambetova, Esq. · Columbia Law School · Licensed immigration attorney

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), is a deferred action policy aimed at protecting qualifying, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. 

Implemented by President Obama in 2012, DACA was created as a stopgap measure to temporarily shield these immigrants from deportation and to provide work authorization. 

While recipients, known as “Dreamers,” can renew their DACA status every two years, DACA does not offer legal status or a path to citizenship. The Department of Homeland Security can revoke a Dreamer’s DACA status for just cause. 

Participation in DACA includes a range of benefits:

  • Permission to remain in the U.S.
  • Authorized to work
  • The right to attend a U.S. college or university (with many states offering tuition assistance)
  • Get health insurance (either through employers or states where offered)
  • Obtain a driver’s license (in states that authorize it)

To receive the protections and benefits of DACA, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012
  • You must have arrived in the United States before your 16th birthday
  • You must have lived continuously in the United States from June 15, 2007, until the present (“continuously” is defined as without an absence of three months or more)
  • You must have been physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time you apply
  • You must have come to the United States without documents before June 15, 2012, or your lawful status must have expired prior to June 15, 2012
  • You must currently be in or graduated from high school, college, technical or trade school (certificate of completion of high school or GED is acceptable), or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or U.S. military
  • You must NOT have been convicted of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors (including a single DUI), or three or more misdemeanors of any kind. Consult with an attorney about ANY contact you have had with law enforcement or immigration authorities

In 2017, President Trump sought to end DACA, resulting in a three-year-long legal battle in the federal courts. 

On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court found Trump’s attempt at ending DACA illegal. This decision did not resolve the legal questions surrounding DACA, but merely pushed an ultimate resolution to a later date. 

SelfLawyer’s analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision results in the following implications for Dreamers:  

  • If you are now a Dreamer, you will continue to be protected from deportation and are eligible for benefits under the program as they stand prior to Trump’s 2017 order
  • All Dreamers currently protected under DACA should apply to renew their DACA status as required
  • If you are now eligible for DACA protection but have never applied before, you should immediately apply 
  • Dreamers should be eligible for advance parole status to travel outside the U.S. and return. At present, it is not clear how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect travel 
  • All individuals should consult with an immigration lawyer or other legal service provider for information about applying for DACA for the first time, renewing their existing DACA protection, and/or getting screened for eligibility for other more permanent immigration options 

SelfLawyer makes the following recommendations to Dreamers and all DACA eligible individuals: 

  • Due to the confusion surrounding DACA, it is important that all DACA recipients and potential recipients contact an immigration lawyer or legal service provider before taking action on any immigration matter 
  • Continue to fight the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda by advocating for a permanent legislative solution for DACA and all other immigrant communities at risk of deportation