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Immigration Reform News Today: Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), Details on Who's Included & Excluded - What You Need To Know

First Posted: Dec 01, 2014 05:54 PM EST
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Undocumented immigrants parents have an opportunity to avoid deportation with the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program initiated by President Barack Obama's executive action on Nov. 20.

Among the series of immigration executive actions initiated by Obama, the DAPA program would allow undocumented immigrants parents to request deferred action from deportation and obtain employment authorization if the individuals lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, and parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before Nov. 20, 2014 -- the same day as Obama's immigration executive action address. The third criteria for the undocumented immigrant parent to receive deferred action is to pass a criminal background check and not be an enforcement priority for deportation from the U.S. prior to Nov. 20.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency will be responsible for DAPA and handle each application on a case-by-case basis. DAPA will not be in effect for approximately 180 days after Obama's Nov. 20 address, therefore May 2015 could be the start for USCIS to accept applications. According to a memorandum by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, DAPA applicants will have to pay $465 for the "work authorization and biometrics fees" and no fee waivers and "very limited" fee exemptions.

While immigrant rights group have commended Obama on addressing the broken U.S. immigration system, these same groups believe more could have been addressed.

The National Immigration Law Center's (NILC) immigration policy attorney Kamal Essaheb told Latin Post the creation of DAPA is a "huge step forward" and the efforts will be underway to ensure "many of those individuals as possible get this protection, get this relief and get that work authorization so they can contribute more to their community."

Essaheb, however, acknowledged a lot of undocumented immigrants are still left out from receiving similar opportunities as the immigrant parents.

"Individuals who are single and who don't have children who were born here, or individuals in LGBT communities who may not live in heteronormative households ... [T]here are a lot of people that are left out who have strong ties to the U.S.," said Essaheb, adding that many of the single undocumented immigrants are workers who may have been living in the U.S. for decades, contributed to the economy, started businesses and partook in industries crucial for the country.

"It's a big step forward. It's a step in the right direction, but it's always sobering to think about the people that are left out," Essaheb added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) shared a similar sentiment as Essaheb. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said Obama's executive actions are "not a complete solution" to the problems encountering the U.S.

"We are extremely concerned about the rights of all six million immigrants excluded from deportation relief, including those who are long-standing neighbors in our communities," added Romero.

Latin Post obtained a written statement by ACLU Washington Legislative Office Director Laura Murphy, Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin and Policy Counsel Christopher Rickerd for the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on the Judiciary hearing: "President Obama's Executive Overreach on Immigration." The ACLU's statement assesses Obama's right to authorize his immigration executive actions on Nov. 20, including DAPA.

According to the ACLU's written statement, similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program -- also created by Obama through executive action in 2012 -- the DAPA program will allow undocumented immigrants to "live without fear of deportation" and contribute to their communities. As seen with DACA and supported by the DHS, DAPA does not provide legal status to the recipients.

"[I]t simply means that, for a specified period of time, an individual is permitted to be lawfully present in the United States," wrote Lin, Murphy and Rickerd. DAPA recipients will be given a temporary stay of a renewable three-year period.

Information rollout about DAPA will be critical, according to Essaheb, who added, "We don't want people being victimized by notarios or other unscrupulous individuals who are really preying on individuals in this exciting moment."

According to Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights' (NMCIR) Deputy Director Cynthia Carrion, fraud prevention is an important step for potential DAPA recipients.

"Unfortunately, we're already hearing stories of lawyers telling people to give them a down payment for them to be the first application. There's a lot of information we're really making sure is shared with the right information within our community," Carrion told Latin Post, adding a series of workshops, staff training and outreach materials about DAPA are scheduled.

Carrion said the efforts by Obama is appreciated, but concerns are still raised for the people not eligible for programs such as DAPA. The NMCIR deputy director noted DAPA only provides temporary protective status and should not be recognized as a pathway to citizenship or permanent residency.

She added, "The [NMCIR] will work with the community for people who are eligible for DAPA are applying, [and] at the same time, we're going to continue our advocacy to make sure that as many families are kept together and we see a long-term comprehensive immigration reform."

Essaheb cautioned that political opponents in Congress should not block DAPA. He said, "We need to really defend it, so that as we defend it, we need to make sure people understand what's truth and what's bullying, cause we expect opponents of this to try to bully potential applicants by telling them that this is going to get them deported or this is not a real or concrete program."

"The next few months are going to be really interesting and I think it's important for people who are potentially eligible to touch base with organizations or stay on top of the media coverage to make sure that they know when to apply, what evidence they'll need, if they're eligible or not. Getting that word out is going to be key," said Essaheb.

The USCIS has not rolled out the application for DAPA. Specific document requirements have also not been disclosed by the USCIS. According to the NILC, potential DAPA applicants should prepare documents that establishes their identity, and, among other requirements, proof of living in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, which may be documented through credit card and phone bills, lease agreements and medical and school records.

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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