For the past four years, I have received questions about my immigration status from friends and family, many of whom wonder how I can work and drive legally in the United States given my lack of legal status.
The questions I have faced are by no means unique, as I am sure that many immigrant allies grapple to understand the complexities of our nation’s immigration system. That is why I have decided to answer some of the main questions that immigrant allies may have regarding President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, and its importance to hundreds of thousands of immigrants like myself.
Why Don’t Undocumented Immigrants Simply Apply for U.S. Citizenship and Adjust Their Status?
Applying for citizenship is not exactly a viable option for undocumented immigrants, as it’s not something that can be done by simply filling out and submitting an application.
My family and I were eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship due to the specific type of visa we obtained in the year 2000. However, our lawyer provided us with bad advice and mishandled our case, forcing my family out of the “line” that many immigrants are told to wait in. Because of this mistake, I am unable to get “back in line” — and no kind of application, fee or action on my part is going to change that.
This is just a basic example, and it does not reflect the complexities of visa caps, types of visas, or processes that immigrants are put through to first obtain a Green Card and eventually citizenship.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal department tasked with processing and handling immigration applications and requests, offers a 10-step guide on applying for U.S. Citizenship. This process may appear linear and easy to follow, but it is anything but. In fact, the process to become a U.S. Citizen looks something like this (click on this link for a LARGER view of the photo):
Ok, So How Come You Can Work and Drive if You Are undocumented?
The answer is actually quite simple. In, President Barack Obama authorized the Department of Homeland Security to create a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA for short.
You can watch the President’s announcement below:
What does the program do? It allows young immigrants like myself to obtain a driver’s license, a work permit, and temporary relief from deportation as long as we meet the following set of requirements. However, the DACA program is not a law—which means that it could be terminated by the President of the United States at any given moment.
#WithDACA I was able to buy my parents a house, buy them a car, better provide for my son, get an engineering job and pay 40k in taxes
— Gabriel (@somfolnalco) November 13, 2016
The program currently benefits hundreds of thousands of individuals, many of whom have thrived thanks to the opportunities it provides. Under DACA, immigrants have been able to start businesses, pursue higher education, and contribute to their communities.
Wow, DACA Sounds Like a Great Program! Why Are You so Worried About It?
In short, Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant Republican allies.
It is no secret that Donald Trump made immigrant bashing and expanded immigration enforcement a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. In regards to DACA, Trump vowed to terminate the program on day one of his administration — leading immigrant youth to fear and panic about their future in the United States.
There are many questions if and when Trump plans to undo the DACA program. And, unfortunately, there are not a lot of answers. However, what it certain is that if the DACA program is phased out by President-elect Trump, then it would not only end our permission to work for 800, 000 immigrants s like me and leave us exposed to deportation.
That Is Terrible! What Can I do to Help protect the DACA Program?
One of the best things that you can do as an ally is to become informed about the DACA program and help dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that surround it. Trust me; we will need your voice should the Trump Administration attempt to undo the program.
Please consider reading up on the following resources:
- 5 Important Things You Need To Know About DACA During a Trump Presidency via UnitedWeDream.org
- Post-Election Resources for Undocumented Students/Families via My Undocumented Life
- Everyone Has Certain Basic Rights, No Matter Who Is President via National Immigration Law Center
Of course, you should also consider donating to your local, state, or national pro-migrant resource or advocacy group. Support from allies will be crucial in the coming years, as immigrant communities will be in need of a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on.
Follow Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa.