USCIS Urges Urgent DACA renewal

by Kobakila News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced June 5 the process by which young people who have received deferred action can renew their enrollment for another two years. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is set to expire on September 2014, grants undocumented youth deferral from deportation and work authorization for a period of two years.

“To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA.  USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said.

With the announcement, USCIS has published a revised application form for both renewals and initial applications. In addition to the initial guidelines, renewal applicants must have resided in the U.S. continuously since their last request for deferred action and must not have left the country since Aug. 15, 2012, without advance permission. In addition, they must pass a new background check.

Cristina A. Godinez, an immigration attorney with the Migrant Center at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in New York City, outlined such guidelines as follows:

DACA renewal applicants must continue to meet the initial criteria for eligibility plus three (3) more requirements:

  • Did not depart the U.S. on or after August 15, 2012 without an Advance Parole;
  • Continuous residence in the U.S. from the time of submission of the initial DACA approval;
  • No conviction of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Renewal applicants may begin the process by submitting the following:

  • Form I-812D, “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”;
  • Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization;
  • I-765 Worksheet along with the biometrics; and
  • I-765 filing fee of $465.00 to the USCIS.

Godinez emphasized the importance of a DACA renewal. She said renewals should be filed immediately to avoid a gap in non-deportability and employment authorization.  She said that those with DACA who don’t apply for and get DACA renewal will no longer be able to work legally in the U.S. and are potentially deportable.

The USCIS said that more than 560,000 were approved for DACA as of April 2014. DACA approvals were granted to undocumented individuals who were brought into the U.S. as children based on the following criteria:

  • Born after June 15, 1981;
  • Under 16 upon arrival in the US;
  • Continuous resident of the US since  June 15, 2007;
  • Physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and at the time of the DACA application;
  • Entered U.S. without inspection or overstayed visa before June 15, 2012;
  • At least 15 at the time of DACA application filing, unless under deportation proceeding;
  • HS graduate, or in school, or with GED or honorably discharged from military service; and
  • No conviction of felony, significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or if no criminal conviction, s/he must not pose a national security or public safety threat.

Renewals for a small number of people who were granted DACA by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) before August 15, 2012, while they were in detention or removal proceedings are covered by separate USCIS  guidance issued on Feb. 19, 2014.

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum said that “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has allowed more than half a million young aspiring Americans to contribute to our society. Young people are working or continuing their educations, building a more promising future for themselves and for our country. For the United States to truly embrace and solidify these benefits, we need Congress to vote for a permanent immigration process that includes the opportunity for hardworking immigrants to earn legal status and eventual citizenship.”

Nooni further said that “DACA remains a wise prioritization of government resources, but it is only a stopgap measure. Real reform will allow law enforcement to focus on real threats to public safety rather than on law-abiding immigrants for whom America is home. And, most important, commonsense reforms will stabilize families and communities so we can all work together toward a stronger America, no matter where you were born.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair said: “I am glad to see the renewal of DACA for another two-year period. This important program has allowed over half a million undocumented youth to come out of the shadows and continue contributing to our society. Despite its successes, DACA is still a temporary fix. The only way to ensure undocumented youth are no longer treated like second class citizens is for the House to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Congresswoman Chu added:  “While over 560,000 individuals received DACA in the last two years, I am still concerned about the low number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have applied for this program. Although approximately 8 percent of undocumented youth who are eligible for DACA are from Asia, only 2.6 percent of DACA applicants are AAPI. That is why I encourage the USCIS to increase engagement efforts with our community, and ensure undocumented AAPI youth receive the relief they need.”

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (HI) also commended the DHS; however, she said the DACA program is “no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform.”  She urged House Republicans to take up the bipartisan Senate immigration bill passed more than a year ago.

“This decision will help young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children with parents, who came looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Most were babies or young children when they arrived, and were not aware that by crossing a border they were doing anyting illegal,” said Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17) and  CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Co-Chair.

“These innocent children should not be penalized and treated as adults who have broken the law,” added Congressman Honda.

In 2010, as a member of the DREAM Whip Group, Congressman Honda fought to ensure that DREAM-eligible students and other low-priority individuals are not deported. He also worked with President Obama to implement DACA, and has continued to press President Obama and his colleagues in Congress on immigration reform.

“We are a nation of immigrants, and the diversity of thought and economic benefits they bring make us stronger as a nation,” said Congressman Honda.

“While the nationwide DACA application rate for eligible youth is 56 percent, the AAPI rate is remarkably low at around 16 percent,” noted Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of Alaska and CAPAC Immigration Taskforce Co-Chair.  He encouraged members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to spread the word “about the DACA renewal process and to continue educating our community about its benefits.”  He hopes that all eligible AAPI youth will take full advantage of this program.

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