DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a directive to the Department of Homeland Security from the government to exercise prosecutorial discretion when deporting or prosecuting foreigners who are in the US illegally. In a bid to revamp the immigration system to one that focuses more on protecting Americans and the country’s borders, the Department of Homeland security (DHS) has been given the power to remove or delay removal of illegal immigrants depending on how they got into the country.

In order to qualify for deferred action, you must have entered the country illegally as a minor, or before you marked your 16th birthday. You must have also resided in the US continuously between 2007 and 2012. During your stay, you must have acquired a high school diploma, graduated college or be working towards that. It is important to note that deferred action is not your right, it can be granted or denied as the DHS exercises its prosecutorial discretion.

When the law was enacted in 2012 on the 15th of June, the applicant must not have marked his or her 31st birthday. Any criminal history will automatically disqualify the applicant because such persons are deemed to be a danger to public safety and may pose a serious threat to national security. A high school diploma, degree or post graduate qualification is required. If the applicant is currently working towards these qualifications, the application may be considered.

Only those who entered the country illegally without inspection before the 15th of June, 2012 qualify. If your lawful immigration status expired before this date, and you never sought renewal, your application may be considered by the appropriate government agencies. It is important to note that any childhood arrival after the law was enacted does not qualify for DACA.

The idea behind DACA is that there are many illegal immigrants who have been in the country long enough to adopt the American way of life, and have acquired meaningful education to become invaluable members of the American society. These people do not have to be deported immediately, they should be allowed to complete their education or continue working until they are able to go back to their home countries willingly or seek lawful residency.

Deferred action cannot be equated to legal residency. This is because the applicant will still be considered an illegal immigrant. It only allows individuals who have been living in the country illegally a chance to finish up what they are doing and go back to their own country or seek legal residency status. Deferred action is valid for two years only. It must therefore be renewed when this period lapses.

During the application process for deferral of removal action, applicants must be truthful when providing information. They must also provide evidence showing that they meet all the requirements. There are generally four key points that must be proved; time of entry, age, education and residency. Proof of physical address, school report cards, identification documents from country of origin and other key pieces of evidence must be produced.

Through DACA, the DHS aims to protect the country’s borders as well as ensure public safety. By deferring action on individuals who are law abiding and hardworking, the government is giving them a chance to seek legal residency or decide to willingly go back to their home countries and live without having to look over their shoulders. So far, deferral of removal action has benefited many illegal immigrants.

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