Photo Credit: Ruth E. Contreras
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a government program which allows young recipients to have legal protection in the U.S.A. It is currently waiting on a judicial ruling that was initiated by then President Barack Obama in 2012 and under threat of being shut down by now President Trump. Recently, a few lawsuits have been brought against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding DACA denials. I recently gathered a few questions from our fellow students and sat down with local Immigration Attorney Liya Djamilova, who has been in the legal field for more than 10 years and is practicing Immigration Law here in Washington State and in Oregon, to address some of those concerns.
SC: When will be a good time to renew DACA?
LD: If DACA expires within a year from now, renew as soon as you can as we do not know how long DACA will be still alive. Before, the USCIS (United States Department of Immigration Services) would not accept the renewal application earlier than one hundred days before the expiration of your current one, but now they will accept it.
SC: If an application is denied what would be the next steps?
LD: DACA can be denied for many reasons and depending on those reasons, the next steps are different. If it was not denied but rejected, for example, for the wrong amount of fees or lack of signature, you can fix whatever was the mistake and refile it again. If it was denied because of the newly acquired criminal history, you may be placed in deportation process and you need to consult with an immigration lawyer to see what next steps are to be taken. If you do not know why your DACA renewal was denied, you need to consult with an immigration lawyer to figure it out.
SC: Are there ways for an individual who is undocumented to change their legal status?
LD: There could be pathways to U.S. Citizenship depending on your criminal and immigration history. For example, if you were a victim of a certain crime and cooperated with the law enforcement or were a victim of human trafficking or you are married to a citizen of the U.S. and are not otherwise barred from getting a green card. However, in immigration it all depends on the facts of each case, so you cannot rely on what your neighbor/cousin did and do the same thing. You need to know for sure that you are eligible before you apply for anything to avoid the risk of your case being denied and you being placed in deportation process.
SC: If someone is detained and placed in a detention center what are their rights inside the detention center?
LD: You always have the right to stay silent and to talk to a lawyer. I would encourage you to be cooperative so the immigration officers have no reason to use force on you. Cooperative, quiet and calm. You can ask to talk to a lawyer and to see an immigration judge. As a minimum, do not sign anything without consulting with a lawyer. If there are no options for you, at least you need to be 100% sure that there are no options for sure. Depending on your immigration and criminal history you may or may not have a right to ask a judge to be released on a bond. ICE always has a right to release you on parole (a promise that you will later show up in court) but they very rarely do that.
SC: Overall what are the rights of a student in the public education system, and university?
LD: Anyone in the U.S. can go to school up to the point of graduating from high school, without any difference between an undocumented student and a U.S. citizen. When you apply for college though, your immigration status will affect your eligibility to get enrolled and to get financial assistance/loans.
As of today there are about 700,000 DACA recipients in the United States of America, as per the Wall Street Journal, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security showed a record of 433,556 foreign graduates approved for temporary jobs in their academic fields, proving that foreign workers would want to acquire a work life after education. The important thing is to know your rights. If you are not quite sure of the rules and laws of immigration feel free to speak with an attorney who can assist you.
As Attorney Liya Djamilova told me, “It will be some time before a final decision on DACA, if it is going to survive or be discontinued. There are a lot of people who are fighting for DACA to keep standing. However, because we do not know the outcome of this battle, if you have DACA, you need to renew it as soon as you can, so at least you have permission to be present in the U.S. and to work for the next two years. “
Undocumented Students Scholarship Workshops:
These workshops will provide scholarship resources and application strategies for scholarships open to undocumented students.
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