The DACA situation continues to frustrate everyone, and we are still lacking clear answers about what will happen in March when the program is scheduled to end. The picture will hopefully become clearer by the end of this month when Congress has to reach an agreement to fund the U.S. government and avoid a shutdown. The good news is that to pass a funding agreement, Republicans must work with Democrats. This creates the environment for a potential compromise on DACA, which has been a greater priority for Democrats than Republicans in Washington. The question now is whether the Democrats will force a shutdown if Republicans choose not to work with them on DACA. The Democrats had such an opportunity at the end of December, but they chose to delay the matter until January 19. If a deal can be reached, it will most likely be a compromise between the DREAM Act, which is favored by Democrats, and the RAISE Act, favored by Republicans.
Under the terms of the proposed DREAM Act, a person would be granted a conditional green card if:
- The individual entered, and has not left the U.S. 4 years prior to the Act’s passage (For example, if it were passed this month, the individual would need to have been here since January 2014)
- The individual was under 18 when he/she entered the U.S.
- The individual has not been convicted of certain criminal offences during that time
Also under the terms of the proposed DREAM Act, the individual would eventually be able to adjust the conditional green card to a green card, and eventually obtain U.S. citizenship. The DREAM Act would grant these rights to anyone who has DACA, so long as they have done not something that would have made them ineligible under that program.
The RAISE Act is a much more drastic change to our current immigration system. It would shift current immigration priorities to favor individuals with certain skills and education levels. Under the proposed RAISE ACT,
- Immigrants would only be able to petition for spouses and children under 21 years old. This means that petitions could not be filed for siblings, parents of children over 21 or adult children over 21 (referred to by some as “chain migration”).
- The act would limit the number of refugees accepted, thus reducing the number of people able to receive asylum.
- Finally, it would end the diversity visa program, which prioritizes giving visas to select countries (ex. Portugal and France).
The RAISE Act does not specifically talk about DACA, but it has been suggested that a fix could be put in to allow only individuals who currently have DACA protection to adjust to a conditional green card.
President Trump has made statements that in order for him to “fix” the DACA problem, he would need funding for a border wall, an increase in immigration enforcement, an end to “chain migration” and an end to the diversity visa. This sounds very similar to the RAISE Act. Nevertheless, stating what a possible compromise would look like is highly speculative at this time. The differences between the potential bills is so wide that there are many possible compromises, and Congress could choose to not act at all.
So, what should you do? Organize all of your records and have them readily available. (You should do this even if there is no change in the law.) Have documentation to show that you entered on or near the day you arrived in the United States. If you came on a visa, make sure you have a copy of the passport you arrived on and any passports that have expired since. Also, have a copy of your I-94.
If you crossed the border, it will be more difficult to prove when you entered, but copies of bills, tax returns, letters from friends and medical records, among other things, will help prove your case. Have these documents organized year-by-year and month-by-month for as long as you have been here. This will help your lawyer move swiftly. Have a copy of school records and paystubs to show that you have been pursuing your education and supporting yourself.
Until January 19, we can only guess how this will be resolved. No matter what happens, there are people who are ready to fight to protect this community. Do your best to be prepared no matter what changes occur.
William T. Hennessy, Esq, has been practicing law for ten years. He has recently opened an office in Danbury Connecticut and is eager to help the community where he grew up. If you have any questions, please feel free to visit his website at WHennessylaw.com, contact him at any time at (475) 329-5387, or via email at WHennessyEsq@gmail.com.