Deferred action seen as temporary alternative to immigration reform

With comprehensive immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, many advocates are turning to a little-known option for keeping undocumented workers in the United States legally.

The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program instituted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in 2012, allows some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country for up to two years, while also granting them work eligibility. For many immigrants who are caught in a legal gray area, DACA is one way to continue living the American Dream.

What is DACA?
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security announced a change in the way the cases of some undocumented immigrants would be handled. Namely, the secretary made it possible for undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the country as children to apply for deferred action, which would grant them two more years in the U.S. as long as they met certain requirements. That deferred action is then subject to renewal after the two years is up.

Advocates promote DACA
In New York City, a group called Atlas: DIY, which works on social and economic causes related to undocumented immigrants, has been sending people out into the city to try to spread the word about deferred action.

So far, that effort has been running up against some roadblocks, as many undocumented immigrants are reluctant to register with federal authorities in the first place. Susan Pan, a legal fellow at Atlas, described the process of trying to get people to sign up as “chipping away at the ice,” in an interview with The New York Times.

Nonetheless, as Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, also explained to the Times, “It’s [DACA] the only game in town right now for undocumented immigrants, and we need to do everything to maximize participation in the program.”