*Guest Op-ED by Heather Fathali, Legal Intern, Cascadia Cross-Border Law
Just over one year ago, on June 15th, 2012, the Obama administration implemented the DACA program, under which certain young people who came to the United States as children and meet other eligibility criteria will be granted temporary relief from deportation for a renewable period of two years.
To be eligible, an individual must have been (1) physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, (2) without lawful status on June 15, 2012, and (3) under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012; (4) have arrived in the United States before turning 16; (5) have resided continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007; (6) be in school, have graduated from school or obtained a GED, or been honorably discharged from the U.S. military; and (7) have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The population of eligible individuals is estimated exceed 1.7 million individuals; as of May 31st, 2013, nearly 540,000 individuals have applied.
In light of DACA’s first birthday, we take a look back the most exciting moments of its first year:
June 15, 2012: DACA is born.
- President Obama introduces DACA to the world in a speech from the Rose Garden.
- The new policy is immediately implemented in pending immigration proceedings, and by ICE officers in the field.
July 2012: Campaigns are underway nationwide to educate potential applicants about the process, benefits, and risks of seeking relief under DACA.
August 15, 2012: USCIS began accepting DACA applications!
- In addition to a $465 fee, the application consists of: Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and the I-765 Worksheet.
September 5, 2012- DREAMer Benita Veliz speaks at the Democratic National Convention.
- Benita is the first ever undocumented immigrant to speak at any party convention.
October 2012- In a series of interviews and presidential debates, presidential candidate Mitt Romney indicates he will discontinue DACA if elected.
November 6, 2012- Election Day!
- Latino voters make up 10% of the electorate, with over 70% voting Democrat.
- President Obama is re-elected, securing DACA and reviving the bipartisan push for comprehensive immigration reform.
December 14, 2012- In a poll of TIME Magazine’s readers, “Undocumented Immigrants” take third place as TIME’s “Person of the Year.”
- January 18- USCIS clarifies that although DACA does not confer a lawful immigration status, an individual will be considered lawfully present in the United States while their deferred action is in effect.
- January 29- Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduces H.R. 435, the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act of 2013.
The bill seeks to amend citizenship and residency qualifications for enlistment in the armed forces, including permitting the enlistment of DACA recipients.
This would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients; under current law, any noncitizen may apply for naturalization after one year of military service.
February 12, 2013- State of the Union Address
- President Obama articulates his key principles for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
- He urges Congress to “[s]end me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.”
March 2013- The battle begins in federal court over Arizona’s ban on driver’s licenses for DACA recipients.
April 16, 2013- Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduces S.744, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act
- This is our pending immigration bill, now in its third version.
May 2013- In the nearly one year since DACA began, 540,000 applications have been received!
- June 06- The House votes against funding for DACA in an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security spending bill. However, this effort is unlikely to become law, as it would have to pass a democratic Senate and be signed by the President—whose administration introduced the program.
- June 15- One year ago today, DACA is born.
- June 27- The Senate passes S.744, which includes both the DREAM Act, and a special provision for DACA recipients.
As comprehensive immigration reform continues to develop, it is clear that whatever is in store for the DACA program, it has already left a permanent mark in a positive way.
Over the past year, DACA has provided hope and secured change for the undocumented community; it has sparked bipartisan immigration reform efforts, and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard-working young people.
Happy birthday, DACA!