With president elect Donald Trump threatening to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it is important to understand this program and what it means for young immigrants in the United States. In an article in the New York Times, former secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano attempts to clarify misunderstandings about the program and explain its true intent.
A Simple Matter Of Prioritizing The Use Of Resources
There is a pervasive belief that DACA has granted legal status to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who entered the United States illegally, and that President Obama overstepped his bounds in creating the program.
In the article, Napolitano compares the act with the tried-and-true concept of prosecutorial discretion that is used in the criminal justice system. Under this concept, everyone from police to prosecutors use their discretion to decide where to focus their efforts. With finite resources, it often makes sense to go after the more serious offenders, and that is a choice that many in law enforcement will make.
Napolitano suggests that DACA was designed to create a sort of prosecutorial discretion in the area of immigration. The use of resources would be prioritized to focus on those illegal immigrants who pose a threat to national security - the gang members and violent felons, not those who have become productive members of society.
DACA Is Not Automatic Amnesty
DACA is not automatic amnesty from immigration proceedings. It is not an automatic green card or automatic citizenship. As the name of the program implies, it is deferred action. It gives those eligible the opportunity to work here lawfully for two years without the threat of removal.
Furthermore, there are many eligibility requirements. This is a program for immigrants who came to the country as children. They must have a diploma or be in school, or be a veteran. Those with felony or major misdemeanor convictions are not eligible.
Now, in part because of misunderstandings about how this program works and how it was created, DACA is at risk. Immigrants currently eligible for the program may want to speak with an experienced immigration attorney, particularly one who is at the forefront of the constantly changing legal landscape of immigration law. Even if the program is eliminated, that does not mean that there are no options for young immigrants. An attorney who knows the law can help you explore all your options.
At Miley & Brown, we strive to provide current immigration information and to push for humane immigration outcomes. We can all help. Contact us for information about DACA and for details on how you can contact Congress and President Obama to tell them that you want fair and humane treatment for asylum seekers. Every voice matters.