Immigration News

New DAPA and Expanded DACA Programs Placed on Hold by Court Order

On February 16, 2015, just two days before the new expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Expanded DACA) program was to begin, a U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily halting Expanded DACA, as well as the planned Deferred Action for Parents of American citizens and permanent residents (DAPA) program.  Announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014, the new DAPA program will permit qualified non-citizens who have been in the United States for at least 5 years, who do not have a serious criminal record, and who are parents of US citizens or permanent residents, to obtain employment authorization.  Similarly, the expanded DACA program will permit non-citizens who were brought to the United States prior to their 16th birthday, who have been in the United States since at least January 1, 2010, and who have graduated from high school, earned a GED, or are otherwise attending school, to obtain temporary employment authorization.  These programs will assist millions of hardworking people in the United States.

In opposition to these programs, 26 states, including Texas, sued the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to stop implementation of DAPA and Expanded DACA.  The preliminary injunction entered by the Court in Texas is NOT a final decision on whether the new programs are legal or within the President’s authority to initiate.  Rather, the Court decided that because of the importance of the issue and the potential cost to the State of Texas to issue driver’s licenses to beneficiaries of the program, DAPA and expanded DACA should not begin until after the Court decides the lawsuit.  In response, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will appeal the Court’s ruling.  So, for the moment, the […]

Why are Women and Children Detained after Fleeing Brutal Violence in Central America?

The rise of Transnational Criminal Organizations and powerful gangs across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, coupled with weak, corrupt and ineffective governments in those three countries, has led to a nightmare scenario for women and children who are being murdered, raped and victimized on an unimaginable scale.  Desperate to find safety and refuge, women and children began fleeing in large numbers in the Spring of 2014, and many have come to the United States to seek protection – or in legal terms, Asylum.  In response, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is attempting to discourage victims from leaving Central America by detaining women and children in large detention centers in the Southwest United States and then quickly deporting them back to Central America.

Throughout the summer and fall of last year volunteer immigration lawyers from across the country flocked to a remote makeshift detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to wage a legal battle against DHS to stop the mass deportation of refugees and help the women and children apply for asylum.  NELSON | SMITH, LLP sent one of its attorneys, partner, Philip Smith, to Artesia to help with the volunteer work. By December 2014, the volunteer lawyers had successfully helped hundreds of women and children escape deportation and gain their release from detention, and DHS quickly decided to close the detention camp in Artesia, New Mexico.  Sadly, the detention of women and children continues, and two giant detention facilities are being erected outside of San Antonio, Texas.

On February 4, 2015, the New York Times magazine decided to tell the story.  To learn more about this humanitarian crisis, please read:      The Shame of America’s Detention Camps


Expanded DACA Starts February 18, 2015

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been expanded by President Obama to allow Individuals with no lawful immigration status to receive deferred action and employment authorization for three years (up from two years), and allows qualifying individuals to be considered for DACA if they:

Entered the United States before the age of 16;
Have lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010, rather than the prior requirement of June 15, 2007;
Are of any age (removes the requirement to have been under 31 on June 15, 2012); and
Meet all of the other DACA guidelines.

USCIS will begin accepting applications for Expanded DACA on February 18, 2015 (Remember, USCIS will not accept requests for expanded DACA before that date.)

Expanded DACA is great news for those individuals who came to the country as children (under the age of 16) and were left out of the initial program merely because they were over the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.  The age limit has now been lifted!  Anyone, no matter their age, who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 — and meet all of the other requirements for DACA — may now qualify for deferred action for childhood arrivals.  Please keep in mind, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) has no affirmative start date – stay tuned!

Always speak to an experienced immigration attorney before applying for any immigration benefit.  At NELSON | SMITH, LLP, we often have clients who learn during their first consultation that they qualify for something even better than deferred action!

To learn more about the new Expanded DACA program, please click:  Expanded DACA