Many of you who are possibly eligible to be granted relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program may be wondering whether or not it is worth doing so now with immigration reform legislation pending in the United States Congress. The fact is that there are many reasons why eligible individuals should file for DACA now regardless of whether or not immigration reform becomes law.
1) Immigration Reform has not been, and may not be, passed this year. The reform legislation passed by the Senate, S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” has an uphill battle in front of it in the House of Representatives. The bill’s ultimate fate is uncertain at this point but it will almost definitely undergo some significant changes if it is passed at all by the House. With the unpredictability surrounding this legislation, it would be unwise to delay applying for DACA in the hope that this legislation may pass this year.
2) Legalization will likely be faster and easier for DACA recipients. If any reform bill were to become law, it would take many months before the government is able to begin processing applications. The agencies that oversee immigration will be tasked with developing new rules, designing new forms, and procedures, establishing infrastructure and training employees. However, DACA recipients may not be required to file new applications to obtain Registered Provisional Immigration (RPI) status. The legislation reads that “[t]he Secretary may grant such status to the alien if renewed national security and law enforcement clearances have been completed on behalf of the alien,” and the individual has not engaged in conduct since being granted DACA that would cause RPI ineligibility. Additionally, DACA recipients may be able to become green card holders more quickly. The Senate bill states that “[t]he Secretary may adopt streamlined procedures for applicants for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status…who were granted [DACA]…”
3) Legalization could be a lot cheaper for DACA recipients. Legalization under the Senate bill would require paying penalties and filing fees totaling as much as $2,000 or more. However, there are indications that DACA recipients would not be faced with this kind of expense. For instance, DACA recipients may not have to pay the filing fee to receive RPI status. The legislation allows certain “defined classes of individuals” to be exempted from paying the RPI filing fee and singles out DACA recipients as a potential exemption. In addition, those who entered the country before they turned 16, a category that includes all DACA recipients, will not have to pay the $1,000 penalty to receive RPI status.
4) The legislation’s educational requirements for DREAMer status are more onerous than DACA. DACA may be granted to individuals who go no further with their education than high school or its equivalent. However, the DREAM Act provision in the Senate reform bill, which provides a fast track to residency similar to that given to DACA recipients, absent a waiver, is limited to those who attended institutions of higher learning beyond high school or served four years in the military.
If you think that you may be eligible for DACA and have not yet applied it is in your best interest to begin the process now. You will be covered if reform doesn’t pass and you will be given special treatment if it does.
Murray Osorio PLLC are Fairfax Immigration Attorneys dedicated to their clients and to their clients’ families. If you have an immigration matter, it’s important that you contact us as soon as possible. An experienced Fairfax Immigration Lawyer could make all the difference- call us at (703) 952-3275, or fill out our contact form.