WALLA WALLA — The Catholic Charities of Spokane held an information session at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Tuesday night to provide details about the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for a temporary two-year deferral of deportation. President Obama announced this new policy on June 15, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released specific details about the application process in early August.
Eligibility for DACA is determined by a number of criteria, and applying properly can be confusing, especially for applicants who don’t speak English. At the information session, Greg Cunningham, the program director of refugee and immigration services, explained the nature of the benefit provided by DACA.
“This is not a law of Congress,” he said. “The president can stop it at any time. I don’t see that happening, but it is possible.”
To be eligible for deferred action, an applicant must have been under age 30 on June 15, 2012, and have entered before age 16. An applicant must also be currently enrolled in high school, or have completed high school or a GED or have been honorably discharged from the military. Immigrants under age 15 may only apply if they are actively involved in removal proceedings.
DACA also requires an applicant have continuous presence in the U.S. since the date of entry. Cunningham explained brief trips home likely would not count against applicants.
“If you left the U.S. for innocent reasons for a short time, it’s probably OK,” he said.
Attendees were given handouts explaining how to document their eligibility. Cunningham suggested using bank statements, medical bills, school records or employment records to establish continuous presence in the U.S.
Cunningham explained the application process and requirements in detail.
Cunningham also went over the form applicants must submit to receive deferred status. Many of the questions are very specific, asking for information about previous addresses and place of entry into the U.S.
“I tell my clients to write as much as possible, but if you don’t remember everything, it’s not a problem,” he said.
He also addressed the concern that an applicant who is determined to be ineligible will be placed in deportation proceedings. While USCIS, the agency that oversees DACA applications, can communicate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the agency that enforces immigration laws, Cunningham said he’s never seen this happen.
“You won’t be deported. Your situation will be the same as it is right now,” he said.
About 40 community members attended the presentation, which was held in Spanish. Catholic Charities of Spokane will hold a follow-up workshop, where representatives will help people fill out the DACA form and submit an application. The cost for this workshop will be $100, and the date has not been decided yet.