With the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would soon end, many young immigrants are concerned about losing both protection from deportation and their work authorization in the future. Thankfully, the program is not immediately ending, but entering a wind-down phase, giving many applicants the opportunity to benefit from two more years of DACA relief.
Despite this bit of good news, many DACA applicants are concerned about appearing before immigration agencies to further process their pending applications. While it is understandable to be worried in this tense political climate, the vast majority of applicants for any immigration benefit will have few problems attending a routine biometrics appointment. For more information why DACA applicants should proceed with their applications during the end of the program, please read "Just Got DACA Biometrics Appointment Notice: Should I Go, With DACA About to End?".
It is always good practice to contact an immigration attorney or advocate if you have a question about your case or if you are in one of the higher-risk categories described below. However, most DACA applicants should be fine going to a biometrics appointment without hiring an attorney to accompany them.
While there have been a few recent cases of immigrants being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interviews or ICE offices if they have outstanding removal (deportation) orders, there have been no reports of immigrants being arrested at biometrics appointments. This is not to say that it can never happen, but it is not on the radar as a major risk right now.
Biometrics appointments are much like the process to get your driver's license or identification card at your local department of motor vehicles. You go to the application support center (ASC) at the appointed time, have your photograph and signature taken, and give your fingerprints. Your personal information is sent to USCIS so the agency can conduct criminal background checks and process your application. While some ASCs are in the same building as other immigration enforcement agencies, many resemble normal administrative office buildings that are open to the public.
If you don't account for waiting time, the entire process can take under ten minutes. The employees at the ASC cannot answer questions about DACA or give you updates about your case. Even an attorney will not be able to elicit additional information at your biometrics appointment.
Normally, immigration attorney representation extends only to the preparation of the application form and legal advice or coaching about the process unless you made another agreement for a personal appearance. If an attorney or advocate helped you to prepare your DACA application, make sure he or she has the address and time of your appointment. That way, if any problems do arise, your attorney can contact you before your scheduled biometrics date. If you do not have an attorney, it is good practice to share this information with a close family member or friend who is authorized to live in the United States.
While you are permitted to bring an attorney to accompany you to your biometrics appointment, even if you did encounter a problem, there's not much an attorney could do for you. He or she could take notes of any unpleasant encounters or questions and report them to USCIS and could make sure to find out the details of where you were being detained in the unlikely event that you were taken into ICE custody, but not much else.
While generally it is not necessary for an attorney to appear at a biometrics appointment, if you recently submitted your first (initial request) for DACA and prepared the application on your own, it may be worthwhile to schedule a consultation with an attorney to see whether there are any potential problems with your application before you attend your biometrics appointment.
An attorney can review your application and pinpoint whether or not there are any eligibility issues. For example, if you came to the U.S. after you turned 16 years old, you will not be eligible for DACA, and it might not be worth it to attend your biometrics issue and give the government more information about yourself.
The same advice applies to DACA renewal applicants who allowed their DACA status and work authorization to expire before submitting a renewal application and those who have been arrested or charged with a crime since last receiving DACA status. Those with lapsed DACA status and potential criminal issues are at greater risk any time they come into contact with ICE or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Similarly, DACA recipients who were in removal proceedings or had a final order of removal or a voluntary departure order should also seek legal advice before attending a biometrics appointment.