The Supreme Court tied on U.S. v. Texas, DAPA and expanded DACA are still frozen, where do we go from here?

Anyone who follows immigration news or politics has probably heard that late last month, the Supreme Court in a 4-4 tie, left in place the lower court’s order freezing DAPA and expanded DACA. What this means is that for the rest of President Obama’s term, there will be no Deferred Action for Parents of Americans or an expansion of the already-in-place Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program begun in 2012.

This does not mean that DAPA and expanded DACA are dead; rather, it means that the Supreme Court has not yet decided if any president has the authority to create and administer expansive immigration policy measures like these. Obviously, if a candidate who does not support DAPA and DACA wins the White House, these programs will never see the light of day. If a candidate who supports these measures or even more ambitious measure reaches the White House, we can expect that we will see a new push for DAPA and DACA or programs like them in 2017.

These programs are not the only way that people in the United States without a lawful immigration status can seek immigration relief. There is always prosecutorial discretion, stays of removal, temporary protected status, asylum, withholding, and cancellation of removal, among others.

Just a reminder of what the DAPA and expanded DACA programs are, and are not.

DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) was an entirely new Deferred Action program that would help an estimated 3-4 million undocumented parents stay in the U.S., obtain work permits and driver’s licenses. DAPA requires that:

1) You have, on November 20th, 2014, a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and 2) You have continuously resided in the U.S. since before January 1st, 2010; and 3) You are physically present in the U.S. on November 20th, 2014, and at the time of making a request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS; and 4) You have no lawful immigration status on November 20th, 2014; and 5) You are not an enforcement priority (little to no criminal record).

Expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) requires that:

1) You entered the United States before the age of 16 years old; and 2) Have continuously resided in the United States as of January 1st, 2010; and 3) Were physically present in the United States on January 1st, 2010, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS; and 4) Had no lawful immigration status on January 1st, 2010; and 5) Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and 6) Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

What these programs are not is a direct path to a green card or to U.S. citizenship. These programs cannot legally provide either of these benefits to those who qualify for them. These programs simply help people without a lawful immigration status who have been in the U.S. for a long period of time, are not hardened criminals and have gone to school here or built their families here. These programs help people legally obtain a driver’s license (if they otherwise qualify) and legally work if they want to, which many of them are doing anyway.

The people who qualify for DAPA and DACA are not the people we are currently trying to deport from the United States to begin with. They are not people considered to be an “Enforcement Priority” by our government, so we are not spending any time or tax dollars trying to detain and deport them. What these programs would accomplish is to bring people who are in the immigration and legal shadows out of figurative hiding.

To apply for these programs, people have to announce to the government that they are here in the U.S., which many times, our government doesn’t even know. They have to undergo a biometric background check and pass it and then they have to stay out of trouble. These are all things that both sides of the political spectrum want from immigrants to the United States. Tell us who you are, where you are, pass a background check, don’t get in trouble with the law and then we can talk about immigration reform.

The bottom line is, these programs, if and when they are allowed to go forward, will be a tremendous benefit to the immigrants that they will help, their families and to law enforcement.

With the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform no closer than they were a decade ago, this is something that will help the immigrants in the U.S. who we are not trying to deport anyway and help our government identify those living in the shadows and give them an opportunity to work and drive legally.

No matter who our next President will be, they will not be able to provide long-lasting and meaningful immigration reform without Congress and for the last 16 years, Congress has shown that it can’t work together to get anything meaningful done in a bipartisan way. We need to find a middle ground, and programs like DAPA and DACA can provide that middle ground until Congress and whomever is President decides they want to do their job and solve this dysfunctional and broken immigration system we have.

If you need an immigration attorney anywhere in the United States, but certainly if you live in Orlando or Jacksonville, please call Lasnetski Gihon Law.
If you or a loved one are in the U.S. without a lawful immigration status, and you want to know if you qualify for any form of immigration relief, call us.
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