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What Happens Now That the DACA Program is Being Phased Out?

News of the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, has caused widespread disappointment, and in some cases fear, among the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were offered protection from deportation under the program. Under DACA, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, and who registered with the federal government were able to work and attend school without fear of deportation.

DACA will officially begin to be scaled back in March of 2018. Therefore, DACA recipients whose permits are due to expire have one opportunity to renew them by October 2017. No new applications for DACA work authorization will be accepted. In addition, no applications for advance parole will be granted, allowing a DACA recipient to leave the country and legally return despite his or her undocumented status.

Until the program is phased out, DACA recipients are still entitled to the benefits and protections they receive under the program. This means that an employer cannot fire a DACA recipient on the basis of his or her immigration status if the DACA’s recipient work permit is valid. Similarly, a DACA recipient cannot be kicked out of school on this basis.

The end of DACA will mean that DACA recipients can more easily be deported. This is a fear among DACA recipients, that the information they provided in order to gain DACA protection could not be used against them. DACA recipients may also be encouraged to self-deport, that is, voluntarily leave the United States before their permits expire.

However, depending on the circumstances, a DACA recipient may have other legal options to stay in the country despite the end of DACA. If a DACA recipient has another legal avenue for changing his or her immigration status to avoid deportation, this would be the best time to take advantage of that avenue. While it is a good idea to prepare and have a plan ready in case of deportation, it is also important for DACA recipients to speak to an experienced immigration attorney before self-deporting. Speaking to an attorney can help a DACA recipient evaluate his or her legal rights under the law before taking drastic action.

There may be further changes coming that could affect DACA recipients. The University of California system has filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the abrupt end of DACA violates the due process rights of the undocumented immigrants who were granted certain rights under the program. Depending on how the court rules on this issue, DACA recipients may be able to retain some of their rights for a while longer. There is also pressure for congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide many of the same benefits as the DACA program.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you were registered under DACA and need legal assistance to understand how the program’s termination will affect you, or how you can continue working and going to school, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

DAPA Withdrawal Ends a Path to Legalization for Undocumented Parents of U.S. Citizens

This week brought some disappointing news for undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for deferred action under a program known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. President Barack Obama authorized DAPA in 2014 as a way to protect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. However, the program never kicked off because it was blocked by courts. This week, the current administration withdrew the program, effectively ending any further litigation, and cutting off the possibility of deferred status for millions of eligible immigrant parents.

Like with DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, eligible parents who received DAPA status would have been able to apply to live in the U.S. and apply for work authorization for an initial period of three years. There was a lot of opposition against the grant of deferred status under DAPA, and it does not come as a surprise that the measure was blocked. However, with the withdrawal of DAPA comes the question of what will happen to the DACA recipients.

Fortunately, there does not seem to be any current move to revoke DACA, which means that those who are eligible under DACA can continue to apply for deferred action and work permits. DACA recipients are supposed to be protected under the program, but as we have previously discussed, some DACA recipients have recently been arrested and deported. This does not mean that it is not safe to apply for DACA; cases of DACA deportations seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

With the withdrawal of DAPA, there is currently no clear path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. It is uncertain if congress will take action to craft an acceptable law that would provide the path to citizenship and allow undocumented immigrants to live without fear of deportation. It is unlikely that the current administration will take action through Executive Action as was done with DACA.

There are other alternatives for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to gain citizenship or lawful permanent residence. One way is through the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children filing an application for an adjustment of status for their parents to be granted a visa or to receive a green card. However, this is not always easy depending on how the parents first entered the country, and if they were previously deported and reentered the country again illegally. There are several other issues that could come up when making these applications and it is often necessary to have an experienced immigration attorney handle the application.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

When weighing the advantages of applying for the benefits available under DACA versus the risk of deportation, it is important to speak to an immigration attorney about your individual situation. If you want to discuss your DACA application, or have received a removal order for your deportation, you should contact us for legal assistance. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

Undocumented Students Access to Financial Aid

Generally, undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid to help pay for the cost of a college degree or other forms of higher education. This does not mean that the students do not have other options, and these come mainly in the form of institutional aid and state assistance.

In California, undocumented students who meet certain criteria qualify to pay in-state tuition in California schools. This can make a big difference, with students saving thousands or tens of thousands a year in tuition costs. Undocumented students who attended a California high school for at least three years may be eligible.

Additionally, California provides undocumented students with an opportunity to borrow money to pay for their educational costs. This loan, known as a DREAM loan, has a relatively low interest rate and allows a student to borrow a maximum of $20,000. Students who receive scholarships and other grants and aid can use the DREAM loan to bridge any gap in aid and pay for their education in full, even though the student has to pay the loan back.

Undocumented students have to complete annual applications in order to apply for aid and certify their eligibility for paying lower tuition fees. This does require providing a lot of identifying information to the state and to the school the student is attending. This may make some undocumented students or their parents hesitate because of a fear that this information may be used to target them for deportation.

Generally, the information that students provide for student aid purposes is not shared with federal immigration officials. Additionally, several cities and schools in California have declared they are sanctuary cities and schools, and would not likely share this information with immigration officials except in serious circumstances, or where it is required by law.

Students who have registered under DACA, sometimes referred to as DACA-mented, are not eligible for federal financial aid in the form of either loans or grants. These students still have an advantage of being able to work in the U.S. legally, which could help them earn money to help them pay for the cost of tuition and room and board. DACA-mented students can also apply for in-state tuition and the DREAM loan discussed above.

The opportunities discussed above do not generally apply to students who are seeking to attend school in California under a nonimmigrant student visa such as a J-visa or F-1 visa. Students who are on a non-immigrant visa generally pay nonresident tuition rates, and are restricted in the forms of financial aid they receive. These students typically receive private or school grants and scholarships.

Contact Us for Legal Advice

If you are the parent of an undocumented student and are worried that enrollment in school could cause problems for the student and put him or her at risk for deportation, you need to discuss what legal options your child has with an experienced immigration attorney. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

DACA Recipients and the Fear of Deportation

Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children were given an opportunity to apply for protection from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented under the Obama Administration in 2012. Under this program, DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, were allowed to work legally and go to school as long they registered with immigration officials and met other conditions. It has generally been understood that DACA recipients would not be subject to deportation if they consistently met their requirements.

Recent news of a California resident who is reportedly the first DACA recipient to be deported since the change in government may have other DACA recipients worried that the safety afforded by the program may soon become a liability because registration make it easier for them to be found by immigration officials. However, while the news of DACA recipients being deported may be surprising, nothing has changed in the law to specifically allow for the deportation.

Deportation was always possible under the DACA program, but a DACA recipient was eligible for deportation if he posed a threat to national security or public safety. This means that for the most part, as long as the DACA recipient did not get into major trouble with the law, the chance of deportation was low. This also means that currently immigration officials may exercise more discretion to deport more DACA recipients based on a more relaxed definition of who poses a threat. However, there has been no public announcement of a shift in policy to increase the deportation of DACA recipients.

If you are a DACA recipient and your status is not expired, you can take some steps to ensure that you are not immediately deported if immigration officials pick you up on another matter. The most important thing is to make sure you carry your DACA documentation with you at all times. This will not protect you in every case, and you may still get detained for a period of time. However, immediate deportation will be less likely if you can show you have current DACA status.

Another key step is to know your rights. Police cannot stop you to question you about your immigration status without probable cause or a warrant. You also have the right to remain silent if you are arrested, and you should exercise that right. Do not give the police details that could hurt you later. Finally, if you are picked up and detained, do not sign any paperwork presented by immigration officials without your attorney.

The feeling of security that DACA may have given some may be decreasing, and eligible dreamers who had not yet filed applications for DACA status may be more reluctant to do so now. There are benefits to applying for and updating DACA status, however, before applying, it may be best to talk to an immigration attorney and decide if it is the best move for you.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you have an immigration related issue, or have received a removal order for your deportation, you should contact us for legal assistance. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

Seeking an Option to Work Legally After DACA

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) after the program was implemented in June of 2012. Under this program, many were able to receive Employment Authorization Documents, allowing them to work legally in the United States. With the future of DACA uncertain, because it was authorized through Executive Order by President Obama, many with work authorization under DACA may begin to look into other kinds of work visas or permits for which they may qualify.

There are a number of guest worker visa program under the United States immigration laws.  The most commonly referenced is the H-1B visa program which hires temporary workers who typically have a first degree and often more advanced degrees. The types of workers employed on this visa include engineers, teachers, and computer programmers. In order to receive an H-1B visa, a person must have a qualifying employer willing to sponsor his or her application.

An employer cannot seek an H-1B visa on behalf of an undocumented immigrant.  Unfortunately, DACA as a program did not legalize its participants, and they are technically still eligible for deportation at a later date if the program is eliminated or the next administration reprioritizes deportation targets. This means that it is not generally possible for a person who is on DACA, and is therefore an undocumented immigrant, to get an H1B visa.

The Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 212(d)(3) waiver presents a way for an undocumented immigrant with an employer willing to sponsor an H-1B visa to successfully gain legal admission into the country and work under the temporary H-1B visa. However, the waiver is also a huge gamble because the undocumented immigrant has to leave the country in order to apply for the waiver, and leaving after having been in the country unlawfully for more than one year triggers certain bans on re-entry. This is where the waiver comes in; an undocumented immigrant who received the waiver of inadmissibility can be allowed to return to the United States on a temporary non-immigrant visa such as the H-1B visa without having to serve out the period of the ban abroad.

This waiver would not remove the person’s inadmissibility permanently, and the person would still likely have to serve out the three- or ten-year bans once the temporary visa expired or he or she sought to change status to an immigrant visa. In addition, the H-1B visa restricts the worker to the sponsoring employer, if an employee want to change employers, the new employer has to sponsor a new H-1B visa or the employee has to leave the country.

While this option presents a way to exit the country and re-enter and work without fear of deportation if DACA gets revoked, it is also quite dangerous because the exiting immigrant is not guaranteed a waiver or an H-1B visa. Before deciding what action to take, it is always best to discuss your case with an experienced attorney.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you are in Pasadena, California, and looking to change your status from a non-immigrant visa to an immigrant visa, or looking for a way to adjust your status so you can legally live and work in the United States, contact our multilingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP.