DACA Expansion to Begin February 18

deferred actionPresident Obama’s expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will take the first steps toward implementation on February 18 when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) begins accepting applications for the program, announced in the fall of 2014. The expanded program extends deportation relief and work authorization to a wider range of immigrants who came to live in the United States as children.

Under the president’s original DACA program in 2012, the program was open only to applicants under the age of 31. Under the updated program, no age cap comes into play—as long as the applicant came to live in the United States before the age of 16 and has lived in the country since Jan. 1, 2010.

Specific implications of updated DACA rules include:

  • Expand the eligible population for the DACA program to anyone who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States since January 1, 2010
  • Apply to undocumented immigrants of any age
  • Extend DACA work authorization from two years to three years

The president’s move to offer deportation and other relief extends to up to an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. Since DACA kicked off in 2012, more than 500,000 undocumented immigrants have enrolled in the program.

While the president’s outreach is welcomed in most all corners of the immigrant community, political maneuvering means the opposition is maintaining status quo efforts to impede reform.  Congress repeatedly failed to deliver immigration reform measures in the form of legislation, which originally fueled the president’s willingness to address the issue through unilateral action. And now the Republican-controlled branch is withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The move, according to published reports, is designed to “prevent Obama’s plans from taking hold.”

While Republican desire to suffocate DACA by withholding proper funding is well known, it’s unclear how the goal to do so works as the Republican-led legislature must allocate DHS funds. Regardless of Republican moves, the president has vowed to veto measures that roll back his executive actions on immigration.

As the expanded DACA program gets underway, the politically-charged rhetoric coming out of Washington will likely escalate. Later this year, a program mirroring DACA— Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—will get underway.

Under DAPA, applicants request deferred action of deportation and can receive employment authorization for three years. DAPA eligibility requires continuous U.S. residency since Jan. 1, 2010 and pass of a required background check

As government agencies incorporate the updated approach to immigration, the focus is intended to move from low-priority cases to “focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety,” according to USCIS.

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