Colorado DREAMers may be eligible for DACA deferred action program

A relatively new federal program allows certain younger undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children two years of legal presence and work authorization.

Younger undocumented immigrants in Colorado may be eligible for the federal DACA program, which allows a two-year deferment of any removal action, including legal work status during that time. DACA, standing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is meant to help so-called DREAMers, allowing federal authorities instead to focus immigration resources on undocumented persons who threaten public safety or national security.

DACA applies to relatively young undocumented immigrants who were brought into this country as children, who have no or minimal criminal records and who meet educational requirements or served honorably in the U.S. military. Those who apply and are accepted into the program are given "legal presence" classification, meaning they will not be targeted for deportation while on DACA, but they still do not qualify for "legal status." During the two-year DACA status, participants can apply for legal work authorization.

At expiration of the two years, participants are free to reapply for another two-year period.

Colorado by the numbers

In October 2012, the American Immigration Council published figures reflecting potential beneficiaries of DACA by state and country of origin. Colorado was estimated to have almost 33,500 potentially eligible individuals (looking at those immediately eligible, future beneficiaries and those that could become eligible by getting GEDs), with just over 18,000 being male and just over 15,000 female. Almost 30,000 of these were from Mexico.

As of June 30, 2015, almost three years after the program started, the Department of Homeland Security or DHS published figures about who has participated in the DACA program. DHS listed Colorado as ranking 10th out of all states in the number of DACA applicants accepted and approved, with a total of almost 27,000 applications accepted and of those almost 23,500 approved.

While the American Immigration Council and DHS may have used different sources and estimate protocols, comparing the two likely means that a very large proportion of Colorado undocumented immigrants eligible to participate in DACA are doing so.

The Texas lawsuit

In 2014, President Obama ordered DACA eligibility expanded and the approved period extended to three years. However, a coalition of states sued the federal government to stop this expansion and a federal trial court in Texas ordered a preliminary injunction to stop the expansion. That injunction is still in effect, having been challenged in the U.S. Court of Appeals, which has issued no decision as of this writing in October 2015.

Many believe the issue will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court whichever way the appeals court rules, so it will likely be some time before it is known if the expanded program will go forward. In the meantime though, the original program is still accepting applications.

Talk to an attorney

Anyone in Colorado wondering whether he or she may be eligible for DACA or needing help with an application or renewal request should speak with an immigration attorney for advice and guidance. Assistance with the application and detailed supporting documentation can make all the difference.

The immigration lawyers at Ted Hess & Associates, LLC, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, assist DREAMers with DACA applications and renewals in Western Colorado.