Now is the time to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or, for those accepted into it two years ago, to renew their status, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said Tuesday.
Meng and a handful of immigration activists stood outside Newtown High School in Elmhurst to urge those who applied for DACA two years ago and those who are eligible to apply but haven’t in the past to file with the federal government as soon as possible.
Approximately 560,000 immigrants have registered for DACA, a program aimed at providing work documents for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, as well as protecting them from deportation for two years, since it was authored by President Obama in 2012.
Those enrolled in the program must reapply 120 days prior to the expiration of their benefits or face deportation, something Meng doesn’t wish to see happen to a single participant in the program.
“Many of these youth know no other home aside from the United States. Under DACA, the Department of Homeland Security will not deport children for a two-year period,” Meng said. “It’s not a long-term solution, but a desperately needed temporary fix for our broken immigration system that helps our youth right now.”
In order to qualify for DACA, there are several strict guidelines.
Applicants must prove they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; they came to the United States before their 16th birthday; they have continuously lived in the country since June 15, 2007; and they have not been convicted of a felony, among other criteria.
Meng also called on immigrants of Asian descent to apply for status in the program, something many have ignored in the past.
“Eight percent of the undocumented youth who are eligible for DACA are from Asia, but only 2.6 percent of applicants are Asian,” she said.
Catholic Migration Services CEO the Rev. Patrick Keating said DACA is essential to young immigrants looking to realize the American dream.
“It is a glimmer of hope for our immigrant children,” he said. “These young people have an opportunity to avoid fear and to continue their education, to continue working, to continue being part of America and to continue to make America great.”
Some critics of Obama have tabbed DACA as one of the reasons behind a recent sizable influx of Central and South American children crossing the border illegally, with some lawmakers calling the crisis an “administration-made disaster,” even though children making their way into the United States today or in recent months aren’t eligible for DACA.
Meng disagreed with such sentiment, blaming political instability as the main reason behind the immigration influx.
“There are always going to be immigrants who want to move to the United States because of the great opportunities we have,” she said. “But the reason for the surge of unaccompanied children at the border is primarily due to violence and instability in Central American countries rather than the existence of DACA.”