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Immigration Law

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: Should Undocumented Young People Apply?

By Dan Berger and Stephen Yale-Loehr

The Obama administration's program for young people who came to the United States as children and lack a valid immigration status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has sparked extensive debate, advice, and analysis. In this Emerging Issues Analysis, Dan Berger and Stephen Yale-Loehr, who have particular expertise in this area, explain the program, provide links to useful further information, and offer practical tips.

They write: 

"It is hard to believe that just a few months ago President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Since then immigration lawyers, legal aid clinics, and immigrants rights organizations have been scrambling to react. How do we responsibly screen over one million young people for an unprecedented program with an uncertain future? How do we mentor the inexperienced immigration attorneys who want to take these cases? How can we encourage undocumented youth to help their own (as they have been for years) without straying into unauthorized practice of law? Should we worry about the upcoming presidential election?

"Overall, the immigration law community has mounted an impressive effort to address these questions. This Emerging Issues Analysis presents a summary of the DACA program, highlights areas of uncertainty, and offers practice tips for attorneys.

"There are roughly twelve million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Of them somewhat less than ten percent are "DREAMers" - those who came to the United States as children, had little or no involvement in the decision to immigrate, have grown up in the United States, are fully assimilated here, have some education in the United States, and would like to get more. For over a decade, Congress has considered but failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide immediate legal status and then a gradual path to permanent residence for these young people.

"In the run-up to the presidential election this year, President Obama made a surprise announcement. On June 15, 2012, he offered temporary relief in the hope that Congress will enact a longer-term solution. 4 Under the new program, individuals who receive DACA relief will have their removals deferred for two years. They will also be eligible for work permits."

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