For the past week or so, non-profits and politicians have been celebrating the hard fought battle for DREAMers to hand in applications for deferred action and pay the $465 processing fee. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 1.76 million people nationally could be eligible for deferred action and this has organizations creating essentially assembly line processing programs. Si se puede fill out forms!
If it sounds like I’m downplaying what could potentially be a way for many undocumented immigrants to stay in the country it’s only to balance the hype that is being pumped through the media and masses about the process to apply for consideration for deferred action and what it potentially means.
Just like with the initial memo, the explanation of the process has created a loud, distracting buzz. I’m not talking about the obvious conservative backlash calling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty. I’m talking about organizations, media, and even schools calling DACA the DREAM Act as if the fighting is over and let’s all just hand over our fingerprints kids. Other orgs are asking for funding to hire attorneys to process applications and passing on the charge to applicants, many who already find the nearly $500 fee a challenge. There has been a deluge of catchy slogans, endless press releases and press conferences from politicos and the non-profit industrial complex touting this program as the end all and be all for DREAMers. There have even been press events inviting the media to watch as undocumented people hand in their application, hoping that they will be among the chosen, allowed to temporarily stay in the U.S. and maybe work for two years or until whoever the new president next year is cuts the program.
What isn’t so often discussed is that with already existing immigration processing backlogs, a closer presidential race than some would like to admit, and no appeals process, this could be a report to deport program. A handful of media outlets and organizations have admitted this and some have even cautioned not rushing to hand in applications until there is evidence that this memo and process actually means something and is more than an election year ploy. As it stands now, it’s not expected that anyone will get any deferral until after the November presidential election. So many orgs are so wrapped up in getting as many applications as they can, akin to voter registration campaigns that sign up as many people as possible with no plan for what’s next. Many of the orgs that are conducting trainings and mass processimn the applications are not offering actual legal representation for those applying for DACA. It will be interesting to see what happens if the process doesn’t align with all the hype and how the orgs who have been prematurely celebrating DACA as a victory handle that reality. In the meantime actual immigration enforcement policies have not changed under Obama. I hope that the DACA process doesn’t become just a diversion while deportation numbers continue to rise.
USCIS Flyer (pdf)
USCIS Brochure (pdf)