The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is a proposed piece of legislation that would grant legal status to thousands of qualifying individuals. It applies to those who entered the country illegally as young children, but who have lived here continuously for at least five years and maintained good character during that time.
Unfortunately, while the DREAM Act was proposed years ago, Congress has yet to pass it. On June 15, 2012, President Obama created a new policy calling for deferred action for certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Applications under the program which is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) began on August 15, 2012.
Deferred action is a discretionary, limited immigration benefit by DHS. It can be granted to individuals who are in removal proceedings, who have final orders of removal, or who have never been in removal proceedings. Individuals who have deferred action status can apply for employment authorization and are in the U.S. under color of law. However, there is no direct path from deferred action to lawful permanent residence or to citizenship. And, it can be revoked at any time.
Individuals who meet the following criteria can apply for deferred action for childhood arrivals:
- are under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;
- came to the U.S. while under the age of 16;
- have continuously resided in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to the present. (For purposes of calculating this five year period, brief and innocent absences from the United States for humanitarian reasons will not be included);
- entered the U.S. without inspection or fell out of lawful visa status before June 15, 2012;
- were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or armed forces;
- have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor, or more than three misdemeanors of any kind; and
- do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Applicants will have to provide documentary evidence of the above criteria. In addition, every applicant must complete and pass a biographic and biometric background check.
DHS will deem as “significant” any misdemeanor involving any of the following, regardless of the sentence imposed:
- domestic violence;
- sexual abuse or exploitation;
- unlawful possession of firearms;
- driving under the influence; or
- drug distribution or trafficking.
In addition, any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to an immigration detainer, will be deemed a significant misdemeanor.