USCIS issues new DACA guidelines

by Cristina A. Godinez, Esq.

| Photo courtesy of USCIS

NEW YORK – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today, August 24, new guidelines effective immediately indicating it will reject and refund the fees for all initial requests under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The rejection is without prejudice to re-filing such requests should DHS determine to begin accepting initial requests again in the future.

DACA is an immigration benefit that provides protection against deportation and work authorization to undocumented persons who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as “DREAMers.”

Immigrant rights advocates and DREAMers have been waiting for the USCIS guidelines after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that the Trump government’s rescission of the DACA program was unlawful and arbitrary.

The USCIS, however, will continue to process all pending and future properly submitted DACA renewal requests and work authorization applications from current beneficiaries. The grant of deferred action and work authorization for approved requests will be limited to only one (1) year.

As originally implemented, DACA and the accompanying work authorizations were granted for a period of two (2) years. Prior DACA and work permit approvals will remain valid for two (2) years and will not be affected by these guidelines.

DACA recipients should file their renewal request between 150 and 120 days before their current grant expires. DACA renewal requests filed more than 150 days before expiration will be rejected by the USCIS.

USCIS will only approve advance parole applications by DACA recipients on the bases of urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Advance parole allows a DACA recipient to enter the U.S. after international travel.

Examples of acceptable situations that warrant advance parole approval are travel to support U.S. national security interests; or to support U.S. federal law enforcement interests; or to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment that is unavailable in the U.S.; or to support the immediate safety, well-being or care of an immediate relative, particularly minor children of the alien.

Previously, the grant of advance parole to DACA recipients was warranted by a wider range of situations that included humanitarian, educational and employment reasons.

The refusal of the USCIS to accept initial DACA requests and the constriction of the benefits available to current DACA recipients point to the Trump government’s plan to try rescinding DACA again.

Although it ultimately gave DACA a new lease on life, the U.S. Supreme Court decision only focused on the manner by which the DHS tried to rescind DACA. In other words, the Trump government may still validly rescind DACA, provided it complied with established legal procedures to accomplish this.

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Cristina Godinez is a columnist of the Philippine Daily Mirror who focuses on immigrant rights advocacy. She practices U.S. immigration law and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association [AILA]. For more information, visit www.cristinagodinez.com.

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