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Apply for DACA in a Trump-Era America?

In 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that her department would not deport certain undocumented young people who came to this country before they were 16 years old. As long as these people were not a threat to national security and met certain other criteria, they could apply for temporary permission to stay in the U.S. under a two-year, renewable program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

In the five years since DACA was enacted, approximately 1.6 million young people have been granted such permission. Dubbed “dreamers” in the press, after the failed Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) legislation that would have granted conditional residency to illegal immigrants, these young people have lived, worked and studied in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Until recently.

Trump vows to end DACA

Donald Trump repeatedly said during his campaign for president that if elected, he would repeal DACA — but in the almost-five months that he’s been president, he has yet to do so. In fact, in April he told the Associated Press that dreamers could “rest easy,” because he is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals.”

This hasn’t been much comfort to dreamers who wish to apply for the program or renew their eligibility. Trump could, technically, end the program any day he wishes by signing a simple executive order. But he hasn’t done this yet, and DACA continues, with thousands of new applications and renewals being received and granted every month.

Should I Apply for DACA?

DACA seems safe for the time being, but even so, many immigration assistance centers and immigration lawyers no longer recommend that people apply for it. They believe the government could use the identifying information to round up and deport applicants. Some organizations don’t discourage people from applying for renewal, as the government already has their information from their initial application.

At the minimum, everyone agrees that anyone who wishes to apply for or renew their DACA should first consult an immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals–accredited representative. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) further recommends that if you do decide to apply, you should ask your attorney or representative to complete and submit a Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative) with your application.

The rest of this guide looks at a few other things you should take into consideration before applying for DACA, and then explains how to apply for or renew DACA, if you choose to do so.

DACA & the BRIDGE Act

Of course, the biggest reason to apply for or renew DACA is this: Trump could leave DACA alone, and if you are approved, then you would be protected from deportation and be authorized to work in this country.

But there’s also the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream of Growing Our Economy). This legislation currently sits in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and if approved, it could automatically protect those people with DACA from deportation and grant them work authorization. So if DACA is revoked but BRIDGE passes, those who already have DACA could essentially “roll over” their protection.

The biggest concern: Deportation

If you apply for DACA and are denied, or if Trump revokes DACA, now USCIS has an official record of your presence in this country. It’s possible they could give your information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which could begin removal proceedings against you.

Officially, USCIS says it would not share information about a DACA applicant with ICE for deportation purposes unless there were serious criminal or security issues at stake. According to NILC, they can share your information with national security and law enforcement agencies for other purposes, such as the prosecution of a criminal offense.


How to Apply for DACA

First-time applicants should visit the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals page on the USCIS website. If you need to renew your DACA, visit the Renew Your DACA page.

USCIS Screenshot of the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Everyone who wants to be granted DACA, whether applying for the first time or renewing, has to file three forms:

  1. I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
  2. I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (if you are granted DACA, you will also receive a work permit that’s valid for two years)
  3. I-765WS, the worksheet for form I-765

How much does it cost to apply for DACA?

The total cost to file all three forms, including fees for the employment authorization application and the required biometric services, is $495. It cannot be waived.

DACA qualifications

To qualify for DACA, you must be able to prove:

  • You were under age 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • You came to the United States before age 16
  • You lived here for at least five years continuously
  • You attend or graduated from high school or college
  • You have no criminal convictions

After you apply

  • After you submit all three forms, USCIS will send you a form I-797C, Notice of Action, to confirm receipt of your application. This usually takes two to three weeks to receive.
  • About four weeks after you file, you’ll receive a notice to go to your biometrics services appointment, where USCIS will take your photo and get your fingerprints and electronic signature to perform security checks.
  • Anytime between four and eight months after you filed for DACA, you should receive a judgment.

No one is certain of the future of DACA

The decision to apply is a big one, and no one can say for sure what the best option is. DACA has had some wonderful outcomes, some of which are highlighted in this report, New Study of DACA Beneficiaries Shows Positive Economic and Educational Outcomes. There is the risk that you could be granted DACA, only to have Trump revoke it at some point in the future.

Weigh the pros and cons and consult an immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals–accredited representative before you file for DACA. Ask them to make a recommendation based on the current political climate and the particulars of your case.

“DACA is here to stay for now. Trump specifically didn’t touch it for a reason. This is a wonderful population of people, with amazing benefits to the US economy. you are talking about people who are wonderful contributing members of society.

Still there is fear it may be capped at some point. I tell my clients to apply if they can. Those that have it will not loose it.

Also if a DACA applicant gets advance parole, once they exit and enter back, they could be eligible for adjustment of status legally. This is huge”

– Jacob Sapochnick, Immigration Attorney

Updated on January 15, 2020

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