With President Barack Obama's immigration reform executive action, changes were made with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA, a program that deferred undocumented immigrant youths from deportation in order to focus on education or employment opportunities following a 2012 executive action by Obama, will be expanded and handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

A memorandum by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson detailed the changes that will occur with DACA following Obama's Nov. 20 executive order. Johnson noted deferred action does not equate to having legal status in the country, but rather "deprioritizes" an individual's case based on humanitarian reason, administrative convenience or in the DHS' interests.

The DACA program, however, will expand. The original DACA rules set eligibility for undocumented immigrants under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and had been in the U.S. before June 15, 2007, to apply for deferment on renewable two-year cycles. The new rules will remove the age cap and apply for individuals in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2010.

Instead of the renewable two-year period, DACA recipients will have a renewable three-year period. The three-year extension will only be applicable for first-time applicants and renewal recipients as of Nov. 24.

"Beginning on that date (Nov. 24), USCIS should issue all work authorization documents valid for three years, including to those individuals who have applied and are awaiting two-year work authorization documents based on the renewal of their DACA grants," wrote Johnson. "USCIS should also consider means to extend those two-year renewals already issued to three years."

The expansion of DACA will also impact the parents of a recipient. As a result of Obama's executive order, the undocumented immigrant parents may be deferred from deportation if their child is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of Nov. 20. The undocumented immigrant parent must have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, and must be physically present in the U.S. at the time of the USCIS' deferred action consideration.

The undocumented immigrants parent must pass criminal background checks similar to the concept for DACA applicants and for a renewable three-year stay period. The applicants, however, will have to pay $465 for the "work authorization and biometrics fees" and no fee waivers and "very limited" fee exemptions.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies have been instructed to start identifying individuals who may meet the criteria of Obama's executive order.

Johnson added, "Under any of the proposals outlined above, immigration officers will be provided with specific eligibility criteria for deferred action, but the ultimate judgment as to whether an immigrant is granted deferred action will be determined on a case-by-case basis."

The USCIS will start accepting applications 180 days after Johnson's Nov. 20 memorandum, which would put the start date in mid-May 2015.


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