A month after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was implemented, the Obama administration approved the first applicants. As many continue to apply, the process has proven to be strenuous.
The DACA allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who meet several guidelines to be exempt from deportation for up to two years and grants them work permits, which are subject to renewal.
The Obama administration approved applications from 29 individuals, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Sept. 14.
According to DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard, 82,000 individuals have applied since the Immigration and Citizenship Services began accepting applications for the program on Aug.15.
To be eligible, the applicants must prove that they arrived in the U.S before the age of 16; continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or had lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012; are high school graduates, in college, or have been honorably discharged from the military; and have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat.
Applicants must mail documents that prove the applicant meets the guidelines, along with two U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forms and a $465 fee. Finally, the applicant is required to visit a local UCIS Application Support Center for a scheduled biometric services appointment.
Approximately 30,00 students in San Diego County qualify for the DACA, according to Executive Director of the Equality San Diego Andrea Guerrero.
Equality San Diego has organized various events that include informational forums, eligibility assessment events, and application assistance events, all through Dreamer Assistance Network.
“Our main objectives are to provide reliable information, prevent fraud, and connect potential applicants with trusted legal service providers,” Immigrant Rights Organizer of Equality San Diego Daniel Alfaro said.
Equality San Diego has been able to provide information to an estimated 8,000 people. Through assessment events it has serviced 3,000 people, and through application assistance events it has serviced 600 applicants, according to Alfaro.
On Sept. 4, the San Diego Unified School District opened an office at the Ballard Parent Center in Old Town to help students who needed school records to prove they satisfy the DACA requirements.
Each applicant receives a record of their school history identifying the schools the applicant has attended and the year he or she enrolled, as well as a high school transcript, according to program manager Bea Fernandez. In addition, the applicant receives an official district letter stating any name corrections matching his or her birth certificate.
Having the name on an applicant’s birth certificate match the name on district records is crucial and has been a major setback for many students. Though most students bare a first name, middle name, and two last names, they enroll in school with only a first and last name.
“Unfortunately, the majority of students’ names on our records do not match because their parents did not do so when they first enrolled their children in school, so we have to correct our records manually and then provide each applicant a personalized letter noting the change,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said the district has processed nearly 1,000 applications since Aug. 15. Since then, the number of individuals requesting to make an appointment has slightly decreased, from 80 and 100 requests a day the first two weeks to now having 60 and 80 a day.
“It does not surprise me that the federal government is not able to process more applications,” Fernandez said. “I think everyone underestimated the time and staffing necessary to help applicants retrieve the documents needed for this process.”