Today, November 13, 2016, in a meeting of concerned community organizers in Athens, GA, we decided to start a daily update/watch on the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as many of our family, friends, students, and loved ones are recipients of DACA. DACA provided a brief glimmer of hope for undocumented youth, and one of the few pro-immigration acts Obama passed through an executive order on August 15, 2012. Since then, there have been an estimated 742,000 recipients of DACA. While Obama deported over 400,000 in 2012, over 2 million during his 8 year term, Trump vows to increase rates of deportation at times vowing to deport 2 million. Most recently this number has increased to 3 million.
What is DACA?
DACA is generally granted for a 2 year period. In 2014, when DACA was first up for renewal, over 83% of DACA recipients filed to renew, highlighting the importance of DACA on recipients' lives. For the state of Georgia, USCIS accepted 28,045 as of June 2016. Georgia is ranked in the top 10 of DACA recipient states. To qualify applicants must have come to the US as children, under the age of 16. They also must have lived in the U.S. since 2007 and were younger than 31 years old on June 15, 2012. Only current students, high school graduates and veterans are eligible. And applicants who have committed a serious crime, have more than two misdemeanor convictions or are deemed to be a threat to national security are automatically disqualified.
DACA is also bound to state-level laws, so that DACA recipients are treated differently depending on where they live. Unfortunately, Georgia is one of the most unfriendly states to underdocumented people. While Georgia grants a driver's license to DACA recipients (unlike Arizona), Georgia's Board of Regents has banned DACA recipients from attending the top 5 public universities, UGA here in Athens being the largest participating universities.
Update as of November 13, 2016
During Trump's presidential campaign, he vowed to do away with DACA in promise with nativists' concerns with "illegal" immigration. Getting rid of the executive action that allowed DACA is relatively easy to revoke, and does not require congressional support. This would be considered one of the "lowest hanging fruit" to show his supporters that he will remain tough on immigration as he campaigned. This would also be a relative easy action considering the vast budget increase and personnel requirements his other immigration-related promises would entail. A big fear among DACA recipients is all of the personal information they've given through the application process. While DACA assured that ICE could not use this information for means of deportation, these assurances are not legally binding. To make matters worse, Trump has named Kris Kobach- anti-illegal immigration politician from Kansas to his transition team. Kobach has promised the wall, and to boost deportations by more than 75% in his first year in office. Especially critical now is to consider the number of DACA recipients who qualified for protection at a very young age. This may be the first time they have to face the threat of deportation. Many may not have the tools or experience to deal with this new threat of deportation. This is why Know Your Rights workshops and the like are so important at this moment. Now more than ever, where one lives is consequential to one’s experience of integration or exclusion. As those of us working and living in GA know, this state is notoriously unjust in its treatment of undocumented immigrants. We cannot depend on legislators or elected officials to support this population, and must take it upon ourselves to step in where there are gaps.
Possible outcomes: 1) Trump’s tactic could be to order US Citizenship and Immigration Services to stop issuing work permits and stop renewing applications. He has been advised not to go after work permits that have already been issued, as it would be too costly, too time consuming, and possibly a public relations mistake. 2) Trump could also directly dismantle DACA, although this would be very disruptive, especially regarding work permits and may be a disaster for employers/business. This would immediately invalidate work permits and associated benefits (driver's license) for DACA recipients. 3) It is unlikely that Trump will renew DACA...
What to do? There are varying opinions on what DACA recipients should do. 1) Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of LA- Karla Navarrete has suggested to reapply as quickly as possible, and to renew work permits. The worst outcome of this action would be that recipients may lose the application fee if it isn’t processed before Trump takes office Jan 20th. But most programs are overloaded with renewals and applications, and even her organization, CHIRLA, is not not taking any more applications. 2)Suggestions from tonight's meeting were provided based on knowledge shared from a webinar with the National Immigration Law Center. They have been advised to not encourage recipients to reapply, as the system is already heavily backlogged and it is unlikely that the application would be reviewed in time. If Trump lets the program simply faze out, option 1 above, a renewal could be worth it, an additional two years. If Trump immediate dismantles DACA, option 2 above, renewal would be meaningless.
Note on Driver's License: Your Driver License will be considered “limited term” and will expire on the expiration date of your birth date/legal presence document.
For example, if your work permit expires 1 year from the day you apply for your Driver’s License, your Driver’s License will also expire in 1 year.
If your limited term Driver’s License expires and you need an extension, you must provide a birth date/legal presence document that expires 60 or more days from the day you apply.