Deferred Action ProgramsWhat is the new DAPA program?
The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) is a prosecutorial discretion program administered by USCIS that provides temporary relief from deportation (called deferred action) and work authorization to unauthorized parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). The DAPA program resembles the DACA program in some important respects, but the eligibility criteria are distinct.
The program will be open to individuals who:
- have a U.S. citizen or LPR son or daughter as of November 20, 2014;
- have continuously resided in the United States since before January 1, 2010;
- are physically present in the United States on November 20, 2014, and at the time of applying;
- have no lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014;
- are not an enforcement priority, which is defined to include individuals with a wide range of criminal convictions (including certainmisdemeanors), those suspected of gang involvement and terrorism, recent unlawful entrants, and certain other immigration law violators
- present no other factors that would render a grant of deferred action inappropriate; and
- pass a background check.
How was DACA expanded?Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a prosecutorial discretion program administered by USCIS that provides temporary relief from deportation (deferred action) and work authorization to certain young people brought to the United States as children—often called “DREAMers.” While DACA does not offer a pathway to legalization, it has helped over half a million eligible young adults move into mainstream life, thereby improving their social and economic well-being. On November 20, 2014, the Administration modified the DACA program by eliminating the age ceiling and making individuals who began residing here before January 1, 2010 eligible. Previously, applicants needed to be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, and to have resided here continuously since June 15, 2007. Moreover, the Administration announced that DACA grants and accompanying employment authorization will, as of November 24, 2014, last three years instead of two. While USCIS will continue to take applications and renewals under current eligibility criteria, those eligible under the new criteria should be able to apply within 90 days of the announcement.
How many people are affected?The White House estimated that almost 5 million unauthorized immigrants could be directly affected by the DACA and DAPA programs. A recent analysis from the Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 3.7 million unauthorized immigrants could be eligible for the DAPA program, while another 300,000 people could qualify for DACA under the expanded guidelines. Based on previous estimates that 1.2 million people were eligible for the original DACA program, this expansion brings the total of potential DACA-eligible individuals to 1.5 million people. Taken together, the MPI figures suggest that 5.2 million unauthorized immigrants could qualify for protection from removal under the two programs. However, past experience suggests that the actual number who apply for the program may ultimately be much smaller, depending on outreach, access, cost, and numerous other factors
How will the government ensure that people eligible for DAPA are not deported before the new program is in place?DHS has instructed officials in both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to identify expanded DACA and DAPA-eligible individuals who are already in their custody, in removal proceedings, scheduled for deportation, or whom they newly encounter, and to exercise discretion favorably for those individuals. For eligible individuals in immigration court or before the Board of Immigration Appeals, ICE lawyers are instructed to close or terminate their cases and refer those individuals to USCIS for case-by-case determinations.
How will the deferred action programs be financed?The deferred action programs will be financed by a user fee of $465 per application. This is similar to the DACA program that President Obama announced in 2012. DHS has stated that “there will be no fee waivers and, like DACA, very limited fee exemptions.”
Why can’t the President just grant a permanent legal status and be done with this?The new DAPA program, like the DACA program, is a temporary measure, designed to eliminate the fear of removal while the country comes to a resolution about permanent legal status for the unauthorized. The executive branch can defer action, effectively declining to remove an individual, but only Congress can determine who is eligible for permanent legal status and citizenship.
Why isn’t DAPA an amnesty?The DAPA and DACA programs are temporary measures that do not meet either the technical or the political definitions of amnesty in use today. Technically, an “amnesty” is a governmental pardon, often issued to individuals or groups convicted of crimes, and it represents a form of forgiveness in which the offending party is admitted back into the fold. The 1986 legalization program was often referred to by its supporters as an amnesty—under that program, people who were in the country unlawfully could come forward, prove that they met certain criteria, pay fees, and obtain a green card. Over the years, the term amnesty has been appropriated by immigration critics and restrictionists to imply a “something for nothing” deal, in which legalization is viewed as a reward for entering the country unlawfully. For many immigration critics, anything short of deportation is an “amnesty,” irrespective of the stringent criteria put in place to ensure that unauthorized immigrants pay penalties and fulfill numerous other requirements to obtain a legal status. In the case of DACA and DAPA, these programs offer some unauthorized immigrants a temporary reprieve, but offer neither permanent legal status nor a chance at citizenship. That power remains in the hands of Congress.
Will DAPA recipients be eligible for public benefits?DAPA recipients will not be eligible for federal public benefits, including federal financial aid, food stamps, and housing subsidies. The New York Times has reported that the Obama Administration will promulgate regulations to exclude DAPA recipients from any benefits under the Affordable Care Act, much as it did in the aftermath of the DACA announcement.
Whether DAPA recipients will be eligible for state benefits and opportunities like driver’s licenses, in-state tuition, and professional licenses will turn on the law of the state. As of the publication of this guide, deferred action recipients are eligible for driver’s licenses in the overwhelming majority of states.