Possible Immigration Options for ‘Dreamers’
By Reuben Seguritan
With the recent termination of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), close to 800,000 DACA recipients also known as ‘Dreamers’ fear that they may be losing more than just protection from deportation and permit to work in the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is no longer accept new applications and renewals of DACA although those whose permits will expire on March 5, 2018 will be allowed to apply for a two-year renewal as long as they apply by Oct. 5, 2017.
Protection from deportation and work authorization are not the only benefits that Dreamers will lose. A lot of them are also worried about losing their health insurance and other benefits granted by their employers and their driver’s licenses and occupational licenses. Those who have attended college and obtained student loans may also face the difficult situation of paying off these loans while not being able to work legally.
But as gloomy as their situation is, it may not be the end of the line for these DACA recipients. Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have reported that up to 30% of potential DACA applications are eligible for something better like lawful permanent residence, for instance.
Under our current immigration law, there are certain individuals who are not in lawful status- like DACA recipients- who may still be eligible to apply for LPR status. While the general rule is that only individuals who were “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the United States by an immigration officer may apply for LPR status from inside the United States, if a family member or employer filed either a family-based or an employment-based petition on behalf of said DACA recipient on or before April 30, 2001, and a visa is immediately available, he/ she may be eligible to obtain LPR status. He/ She may just have to pay a fine of $1,000.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) likewise provides for temporary visas for certain victims of crimes. Even though one entered the US without being admitted or inspected, if he or she have been the victim of certain qualifying crimes, suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of these crimes and cooperates with law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of these crimes, he/she may be eligible to apply for U Visa. T visas, meanwhile, may be available to those who have been victims of severe forms of trafficking and would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the US. Both visas can be ways for the victims to gain lawful residence status and later on apply for citizenship.
Certain spouses, children and parents of US citizens or LPRs who have been subjected to battery or extreme cruelty by said US citizen or LPR family member are likewise allowed by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to apply for their adjustment of status. Even if they entered without inspection and without admission, they are eligible to adjust status as long as they can prove that they resided with said US citizen or LPR family member, and were battered or were the subject of extreme cruelty.
The Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is also worth looking into. Certain unmarried individuals under 21 years old may be allowed to remain in the US where a juvenile court has found that the child’s reunification with his or her parent(s) is not viable because of abuse, neglect, abandonment or a similar basis under State law and it is in the child’s best interest not to be returned to his or her country of nationality or last habitual residence or that of his or her parents.
For DACA-recipients who just came to the US and have only stayed here for less than a year and cannot return to their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of his/ her religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, he/she may be eligible to apply for asylum. It is important, however, that an asylum application be filed within a year of their last arrival in the US. This is even better than a DACA application since this allows an asylee to apply for LPR status one year after obtaining the asylum status.
It is therefore important for the Dreamers to consult with an immigration attorney to be able to determine what immigration options may be available to them after the termination of DACA.