DREAM or Nightmare? Immigration Lawyer on Challenges Still Facing DACA
The White House announced in late July it would be rejecting all new DACA applications and limit renewals to only one year instead of two, while the program is “under review.” DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — grants temporary legal status to individuals that came to U.S. “as children and meet several guidelines.”
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s bid to end DACA back in 2017 was unlawful, legally requiring them to completely restore the program to its original form.
While the Supreme Court’s announcement can be viewed as a big win, immigration advocates say there is still plenty of work to be done. YR Media spoke with Directing Attorney Aidin Castillo, with Centro Legal De La Raza, about the future of DACA and what families can do to prep if the opportunity for new applications opens up.
YR Media: What does the Supreme Court’s ruling mean for people with DACA? Is it a cause for celebration?
Aidin Castillo: It should be celebrated as a victory, but after so many years of waiting, it really also feels like a partial victory. The Supreme Court did say that [the Trump administration’s] decision to end the program was capricious and arbitrary. That means that the way in which [Trump] decided to end the program wasn’t well reasoned. He violated federal law, which requires that when you terminate a program that you follow a process: including giving reasons for why you’re ending that program. The Supreme Court also made clear that he does have the authority to end the program. We have heard statements from the president since the Supreme Court’s decision, and he does intend to restart the process to end the program. And that is really devastating. It creates so much uncertainty for people who are trying to find some sort of stability in their lives.
YR: Is now a good time to reapply?
Aidin Castillo: For anybody who has had DACA, and especially if your DACA is going to expire sometime soon, it’s very clear that you should be able to renew DACA, and there is a process in place, and those applications are getting processed. Now, the other population of people who have never had DACA and would like to take advantage of this opportunity and apply for DACA for the first time, the Trump administration has not set up a process. If you go to their website, it still shows that renewals are the only thing you can do with DACA. [Unfortunately], what we’ve seen since the Supreme Court’s decision is that the Trump administration has not put any process in place to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. The Trump administration is in violation of the Supreme Court decision, and now [a recent] federal court decision is mandating [the administration] to put the program back in the place it was originally.
YR: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to apply for DACA for the first time?
Aidin Castillo: Get a consultation with an attorney. Everybody can benefit from that. Even if you did a few years ago, your circumstances could have changed, and you might find that not only am I actually eligible for DACA, but I’m eligible for other things that can actually lead to a green card. DACA does not lead to a green card. We have seen that some attorneys have filed DACA applicants for people who are eligible and those applications have been rejected. Submitting applications even when there isn’t a process can be risky. We all understand how risky it is to file anything with immigration, especially if you’re undocumented — for a lot of people who have lived in the country without status, who are afraid that the government will know that they’re here and that it will result in them being put in deportation proceedings. And so, understandably, many people and some attorneys are saying, ‘We’re not going to take that chance and that risk of disclosing this information until at least we know that there is a process where applications will be accepted and then evaluated and a decision will be made on initial DACAs.
YR: Are the recent actions [blocking new applications] by Trump legal? Can he actually do that?
Aidin Castillo: Good question. Our position is that he cannot. Other attorneys have a different perspective and actually think that he is now following the process the Supreme Court said he should have followed to begin with —giving notice of intent to end the program and explanation of what he’ll consider in that decision.
YR: Are you worried about people looking to take advantage of individuals applying for DACA?
Aidin Castillo: Any time there’s like a whisper of something immigration-related, it’s like prime time for people who do take advantage of people who so desperately want to find an option to be able to stay here lawfully and come out of this life of insecurity. Our advice is always be a savvy consumer. People are really savvy when it comes to many other things like when you buy a car — you do all this research, but that should also apply when you’re looking for legal help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t pay for something that hasn’t been thoroughly explained to you, that’s in writing.