Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it will stop accepting new applications for the President Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and will soon phase out DACA renewals, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process initial requests that were filed before September 5, 2017 as well as certain renewals filed by October 7, 2017.
Some with pending DACA applications might wonder what happens next and whether it is worth it to continue corresponding with USCIS now that the benefits of the program are scheduled to end. Many immigrants fear appearing at their biometrics appointment, which is a routine appointment to have photographs and fingerprints captured at an application support center (ASC).
Read on for information about why most individuals should attend their DACA biometrics appointment.
Since 2012, DACA has allowed many undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children the opportunity to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. DACA recipients (also known as DREAMers) were disheartened to hear that the program is now winding down, with many now scheduled to lose DACA status in the year 2018.
If you lodged a DACA application right before the government's deadlines, you are one of the lucky ones. Although DACA is a discretionary status, which can be revoked at any time, if approved you will still likely receive a two-year reprieve from deportation and a two-year work permit.
While this is a tumultuous time for undocumented immigrants in the United States, with a few exceptions, you should still answer all requests from USCIS and attend all scheduled appointments. It might be little consolation, but at this point, USCIS already has your personal information (and your $495 application fee), so it's worth it to proceed and get the benefits that you applied to receive.
In order to receive DACA status, applicants must attend a biometrics appointment at an application support center (ASC) to have photographs, fingerprints, and a signature taken. This routine appointment is required so the government can complete background checks and ensure that the person applying for DACA is the person appearing at the ASC. Some ASCs are in the same location as other immigration agencies and some are separate office buildings.
Very few DACA applicants need worry about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arriving at a biometrics appointment to apprehend or arrest applicants. In the great majority of cases, the benefits of continuing with your DACA application will vastly outweigh the risk of being arrested and detained by ICE. ICE agents are not routinely lurking at ASCs waiting to arrest or question applicants for immigration relief.
DACA applicants are not a removal priority unless there are new arrests or criminal convictions or suspected gang or terrorist activity which affects DACA eligibility. If any of the above situations apply to you, you should contact an immigration lawyer with experience in criminal matters prior to attending your DACA appointment.
Furthermore, you should bear in mind that if you allowed your DACA status to lapse (that is, let it expire before submitting your renewal application), there is always a greater risk any time you come into contact with ICE or another immigration enforcement agency. While you can (and should) attend your biometrics appointment as scheduled, you should be wary of driving or working if you are no longer authorized to do so as it may put you at risk of ICE arrest.
It's normal to feel despondent about DACA ending, especially if you have enjoyed the benefits of DACA protection for the last several years. However, the Trump administration has signaled some willingness to work with Congress in passing immigration reform initiatives. Many U.S. senators and representatives from both parties have indicated a desire to help DREAMers remain in the United States.
Bottom line, don't abandon your DACA application now. While there are no guarantees, there is a chance that another form of immigration relief may become available in the future.