Pointers for DREAMers as they Get Ready for Deferred Action

As the Department of Homeland Security is set begin implementation of the deferred action application process, undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. at a young age, commonly referred to as the DREAMers, should complete collecting documents to support their application. At the same time, however, they must be wary of immigration scams.

These DREAMers must document their history in the United States – their date of entry, physical presence, continuous residence, and educational history – in order to present as complete and strong a case as possible. Financial records, medical records, school records, employment records and military records may be used to prove one or several criteria.

Documents that may be useful include immigration records, I-94 cards, driver’s licenses, birth certificates of the applicant and any children born to him/her in the United States, marriage certificates, utility bills, tax returns, lease agreements and rent receipts, dated photographs, bank statements, cancelled checks, diplomas and transcripts.

Individuals who have a criminal history might be found ineligible and be subjected to deportation proceedings so if an applicant has a criminal conviction, he/she should obtain a certificate of disposition from the court and seek legal advice before applying for deferred action.

Prospective applicants should watch out for notarios and unscrupulous consultants who promise that they can already start the application upon payment of a fee. Until the details of the application process are made public, a request for payment of application or filing fees may be fraudulent. The new policy is not an amnesty and promises of a green card or path to U.S. citizenship are false.

Only qualified lawyers can give legal advice and not notarios or notary publics, so make sure that your lawyer is a member of the state bar association before using his/her services.

In the days leading up to the announcement of the application procedure, more and more stories of immigration fraud become exposed. For example, there have been reports that a scam artist had been calling immigrants and identifying himself as a USCIS officer. He/she would ask for certain data such as the I-94 number and the “A” number and, supposedly in order to rectify a discrepancy with their records, ask for money to be wired via Western Union.

To avoid being the victim of immigration fraud, everyone must be alert and proactive.
Many references are available online to help prevent immigration fraud, such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which has a dedicated site at www.ftc.gov/immigration, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association-sponsored website www.stopnotariofraud.org. Those who believe that they were the victim of immigration fraud must report it to the FTC.

The new policy announced by President Obama last June is expected to spare some 800,000 individuals from deportation. Under the June 15, 2012 Memorandum, certain immigrants will be eligible for administrative relief in the form of deferred action for two years, subject to renewal, and eligibility for employment authorization.

Deferred action refers to the discretionary determination to defer removal action against an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. It does not grant legal immigration status. The memorandum stated that the federal government would create a process for the application in sixty days.

To be eligible for deferred action, the following criteria must be met: (1) applicant came to the United States under the age of 16; (2) continuous residence in the U.S. for at least 5 years prior to June 15, 2012; (3) currently in school, graduated from high school or obtained general education development(GED) certificate, or honorably discharged from the Armed Forces; (4) not convicted of a felony offense, significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses, and not otherwise a threat to national security or public safety; and (5) age 30 or below.