Dreamer Immigration Benefits, Should I Apply?

Quite frequently I am approached and asked a question something along these lines: “My son is in the United States without papers. He wants to apply for the Dreamer benefit but we understand that this benefit is not permanent. What will happen if the benefit disappears or if his application is denied?”

he short answer to this question is that nobody knows what will happen if the benefit disappears or if the application is denied. My advice, if the person qualifies, is that he goes ahead and applies for to the “Dreamer” benefit known as DACA.

So now let get to the long answer. First things first, there is no Dream Act yet, but there is an immigration benefit called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” President Obama exercised his executive powers on June 15, 2012 when he declared that Immigration authorities will not pursue the deportation of certain young immigrants. President Obama’s executive order allows these young immigrants to affirmatively apply for what the Department of Homeland security calls “deferred action.” Once approved, they can be issued work permits that will allow them to apply for a social security card and possibly state IDs and driver’s license (this is dependent on your state). The Department of Homeland Security has labeled President Obama’s program “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”

Although it has been nearly a year since President Obama announced the executive order, and it has been several months since the Department of Homeland Security started accepting applications, there are still a large number of eligible immigrants out there that have not taken advantage of this new program. The reasons for this are many, but one of the biggest reasons is fear. Fear, because although the government is granting deferred action, this program does not confer permanent benefits. Some people worry what will happen to them in the long run if they come out of the shadows and apply for this benefit. Will the government pull this deferred action program later down the road and leave this group of immigrants without permission to be in the United States? What would happen then, would the government then try to deport these young immigrants in the future?

Several Immigration attorneys, me included, think that this program is not going to disappear. First, President Obama’s re-election virtually guaranteed that this program will be around for at the next four years. Second, the Republican Party learned from the recent presidential election that the Hispanic vote could be the deciding factor in future elections. As soon as the President Obama won re-election, several key Republican leaders and pundits magically changed their stance and rhetoric on immigration issues. Any future Republican Presidential candidate will think more than twice about cutting off this program because it could mean losing the Hispanic vote. Additionally it seems now more than ever that comprehensive immigration reform is right around the corner. Three, history tells us that the deferred action program will not disappear anytime soon. The United States government has given Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) to citizens of countries that experienced natural disasters. For example TPS was given to citizens of El Salvador after that country experienced a devastating earthquake in 2001. By the very nature of its name TPS is supposed to be temporary. However, citizens of El Salvador that obtained TPS after the earthquake in 2001 that have maintained that status since are still to this day able to renew their TPS on a yearly basis. An apparent temporary program, yet it is still around well after the earthquake. Sound familiar?

Generally to be eligible for the deferred action you must meet the following requirements: 1) under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; 2) arrived in the U.S. before turning 16; 3) have continuously resided in the U.S. since at least June 15, 2007; 4) been in an illegal immigration status on June 15, 2012; are currently in school or have graduated from high school or have obtained a GED; and have not been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor.

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