In light of President-elect Trump's campaign promises regarding undocumented immigrants, it's understandable that many are deeply worried in the wake of his election. Among those promises was a vow to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. What is this likely to mean for those who have applied, been granted, or have been planning to apply for DACA?
The good news is that there are currently over 700,000 DACA recipients. It would be extremely difficult and costly for the U.S. government to try to deport all of those people, and administrative programs like DACA have not been used in the past for large-scale deportations. The bad news is that Donald Trump, by all accounts, is unlike other presidents who have gone before him—which makes his future actions harder to predict.
As of this writing, the processing of initial DACA applications is taking a long enough time that it is unlikely that those applications would be adjudicated until after the inauguration of President-elect Trump in January 2017. By that time, the DACA program could be eliminated. If it is, applicants will have needlessly spent time compiling their applications, and needlessly spent money on filing fees. (It is worth noting that filing fees are set to increase to $495 in December 2016.) Additionally, these applicants may open themselves to scrutiny from DHS.
Because the government already knows about current DACA recipients, there is no additional risk of DHS exposure for those attempting to renew. At this time, there is no word on whether the Trump administration intends to end existing DACA grants, or simply close off opportunity for DACA recipients to renew.
As of this writing, the processing time for DACA renewal applications is about 8 weeks, which means that those renewals that are in process or filed soon may be granted. A renewal now may mean that the recipient can have a work permit that extends one to two years into the Trump administration. However, there also exists the risk that if a renewal application is not processed in time, the applicant will have wasted the time, money, and effort necessary to apply for the renewal.
However, a consensus among immigration attorneys indicates that if you are eligible, you should submit an application for renewal now, even if it's 180 days before the expiration date. You may lose some days by applying early, and you do risk losing your filing fee if DACA is eliminated before your application is granted. However, the prospect of having a valid work permit for up to an additional two years may make the risk worth it.
DACA recipients who want to leave the U.S. and be able to return need to apply for advance parole in order to do so. However, this may now be a challenge. As of this writing, processing time for advance parole requests exceeds three months, which would mean travel could not take place prior to a Trump inauguration. It's possible that an emergency advance parole request could be granted sooner, but DACA recipients should not count on this.
If you have concerns about DACA or your status, you should immediately consult an experienced Maryland immigration attorney. There may be options other than DACA available to you, but the longer you wait, the more likely your options are to be limited. An attorney can also help you to become aware of your rights should you come in contact with an immigration agency.
Also, it is now, more than ever, essential to avoid actions that could bring you into negative contact with local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. Even a relatively minor charge or conviction could impact your immigration prospects in a way you will be unable to reverse.
If you have questions about what Donald Trump's election means for you, contact Howard County, MD immigration lawyer Van T. Doan. Time is of the essence, and even a few days' delay could make a significant difference in your situation. We look forward to working with you.