As many as twelve million people are in the United States without any valid immigration status. Four million are parents to either American citizens or legal permanent residents. Are you one of them? If so, the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) might allow you to legally live and work in the United States.
While the program is currently tied up in court, you should understand the program and if it is right for you.
What Is DAPA?
The dysfunctionality of U.S. immigration law is well documented. Millions of people live in the United States with no valid immigration status or documentation. For these people, the path to obtaining legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship might be decades long or nonexistent entirely. Immigration law is a polarizing political issue. As such, Congress has not passed meaningful immigration reform since 2002, leaving millions in legal limbo.
In light of congressional inaction and to provide some relief to those living in the U.S. without immigration status, President Obama announced the DAPA program in November 2014. Deferred Action for Parents of Americans defers deportation for certain unauthorized immigrants. While DAPA does not confer full legal immigration status, it does provide those eligible with three-year work permits and valid Social Security numbers.
Caution: DAPA Is NOT in Effect Yet
DAPA represents a real possibility for some of those currently unable to legally live and work in the United States. As such, the Obama Administration intended to begin approving DAPA applications in early 2015. That did not happen.
Concerned that DAPA would cause them harm, Texas and 24 other states sued the federal government to prohibit implementation of the program. A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction, stopping the government from accepting or approving any DAPA applications. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. On June 23, 2016, the high court was deadlocked and was unable to reach a decision. The Obama administration has requested that the Supreme Court rehear the case once a ninth Judge is appointed. That is not likely to happen until after the November elections. Those hoping for relief under DAPA have little choice but to wait on a future decision from the Supreme Court. In the meantime, though, those eligible should be gathering the supporting documentation necessary to make the case for eligibility.
How Do I Know if I Qualify for DAPA?
To be eligible for action under DAPA, a person must meet all of the following criteria:
- Must have resided in the United States without interruption since January 1, 2010;
- Must have been physically present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014 (the date the program was announced);
- Must be physically present in the U.S. when applying for the program;
- Must have lacked lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014;
- Must have had (as of November 20, 2014) a child who is either a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident; and
- Must not have been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors or be a threat to national security.
When applying for DAPA, you will have to affirmatively prove that you meet the above qualifications. To do that, you should compile supporting documentation that proves each criterion.
- Physical Presence Detail a complete chronological list of all addresses where you have lived since entering the United States. Rental leases, mortgage documentation, phone bills, credit card statements, employment records, etc. can all be used to prove physical presence.
- Lack of Immigration Status Prepare a complete and accurate record of your U.S. immigration history. This should include current and expired passports, visas, I-94 admission records, Notices of Action, and any other immigration documentation. You also want to estimate as accurately as possible any dates of entry to and exit from the United States. Additionally, try to recall and document any encounters you had in the past with U.S. immigration officials, consular officers, border agents, immigration judges, etc. You will want to discuss these events with your attorney prior to filing an application for DAPA.
- Parent/Child Relationship Collect the birth certificates of your U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children along with their immigration documentation. Make sure the documentation reflects that you had a child who was born before November 20, 2014, and that that child was either a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident on that date.
- Criminal Records Completely document any run-ins you have had with law enforcement in the United States, in your home country, and anywhere else. This should include documentation for any criminal offenses in which you were questioned, arrested, charged, or convicted. Be sure to include any deferred judgments, expunged cases, plea deals, etc. You should also obtain records of motor vehicle infractions, especially if you have been cited for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You should be certain to disclose and discuss all criminal and serious civil issues with your attorney prior to filing an application for DAPA.
DAPA Does Not Replace Other Forms of Immigration Status
There has been some discussion in immigrant communities about the effect an application for DAPA might have on other pending or potential immigration status. In particular, those with Section 245(i) eligibility who are awaiting current priority dates have considered abandoning those efforts in favor of DAPA.
Generally, DAPA is intended to defer deportation for those who qualify and have no other immigration options. As noted earlier, DAPA does not confer any official immigration status. Similarly, seeking and receiving DAPA benefits does not preclude pursuit of other legal immigration statuses.
Andres Mejer, an experienced New Jersey immigration attorney, can help you understand your situation. 888-695-6169 24/7.