By: Helena Coric*
Over two months have passed since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program emerged this summer. Now, the time has come to evaluate its progress and effectiveness. The adjudication process has begun as judges review evidence presented by the parties involved. USCIS has reported that 4,600 cases have been approved of the 180,000 accepted for processing. 1.76 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to qualify. The Department of Homeland Security reports that up to 3,000 DACA Visa applications are received each day. What is the significance of all these statistics as we move forward?
Considering this present data and the actual potential applicant pool nationwide, the number of applicants ultimately appears to be far too low. DHS has taken charge addressing the concerns of the public by establishing several FAQs. Although helpful, the FAQs do not have the force of law or regulation so there must be other measures implemented at tackling more serious cases. In the end it will be up to DHS to advise federal and state agencies about how to proceed on DACA matters so the concerns must ultimately be resolved at the top first.
Despite the attention paid by DHS, the lower than expected applicant pool remains a concern. For one, there are several qualifications that must be met: “under 31 years of age, arrived before the age of 16, have lived in the United States for at least five years continuously, no criminal record, and be a high school graduate, college student or military veteran.” If all this criteria is not met, the individual is simply not eligible.
Final approval brings a possibility of a work permit for two years, but before one gets to this point much apprehension exists. The fact that DACA does not ensure a path to permanent legal status makes potential applicants hesitant to even begin the process. Too many are worried that they will put themselves and family members under great risk for deportation since ICE will possess so much personal information. This information could then be used to issue an appearance before a judge for removal proceedings. Will the final result ultimately outweigh the potential risks and consequences involved? With all this hesitation towards DACA, the burden falls upon DHS to provide the leadership and advice so that this program may proceed appropriately and so non-immigrants are encouraged to apply.
*Helena Coric is an Intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Assoicates, P.C.