CCNLA Sees Increase in DACA Requests
“The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34
At Catholic Charities of North Louisiana, we live out our faith by assisting the entire Diocese through programs like Immigration Legal Services.
In recent years, the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA as it’s more commonly known – has made headlines in the US. The program began in 2012 under the Department of Homeland Security and provides for deferred action for a period of two years for people who came to the United States as children. There are several guidelines and qualifications that must be met in order for a person to be eligible for this type of deferral. To explain it simply, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program provides protection from deportation and employment authorization for qualified individuals. They are able to work legally, get driver’s licenses and live without fear of deportation. However, the consideration must be renewed every two years and does not make the person a citizen nor does it provide any permanent immigration benefits or make them eligible for most federal programs. It simply allows them to live and work here legally.
As of December 4th, 2020, the United States began accepting new DACA applications again. Being the only nonprofit organization north of I-10 that assists with immigration services, Catholic Charities of North Louisiana’s immigration legal services staff has been bombarded with new DACA requests since December’s announcement. “There have been so many requests for assistance with new DACA applications that we’ve had to start a waiting list,” said immigration services representative Andrea Ortega. “There are currently more than 40 applicants waiting for appointments, and the immigration phone lines stay busy.”
In addition to the wait list, the immigration staff has taught front office personnel basic Spanish phrases to accommodate walk-ins requesting the DACA application. “We put a sign at the front desk in Spanish and have put together packets of information and streamlined some of the processes to handle the increased workload,” said executive director Meg Goorley. “We are excited that so many of our foreign-born neighbors want to stay in the US legally. Many of these people don’t have families in other countries; they’ve only ever known life in the US.”
In 2017, the administration attempted to terminate the DACA program completely. A later court decision ruled that the Department of Homeland Security had not followed proper legal requirements to terminate the program and ordered them to continue accepting applications. In response, acting Secretary of DHS Chad Wolf suspended all new DACA applications but allowed annual renewals. “It was really confusing for clients who wanted to make an initial application. They weren’t sure if they’d get accepted, rejected, or denied and possibly deported,” said CCNLA’s immigration legal attorney Briana Bianca. On November 14th, the court reaffirmed that the earlier rulings required DHS to begin accepting new DACA applications again. “In all of this process with DACA, we have tried to keep up with the changes in order to be able to inform and serve our clients accurately,” stated Gilda Rada, Department of Justice accredited immigration representative.
For those interested in applying for DACA, here are the basic requirements for consideration:
- Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 or must be born after June 15, 1981;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with United States Customs and Immigration Services;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
For more information on the immigration legal services provided by CCNLA, please visit www.ccnla.org or call 318-865-0200.