What Are the Options for DACA Recipients?

The legal options for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals who are subject to political whim

By Doug Mentes, Esq. | Last updated on January 26, 2023

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Since President Trump took the oath of office in January 2017, the lives of the estimated 800,000 DACA recipients have been up in the air. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a program that began in 2012 under the Obama administration. Although DACAs were never guaranteed a path to citizenship through the program, it did give them stability for their near future. Now, with almost daily changes to immigration law and policy that affect their status—whether from the president, attorney general, Congress or the courts—that stability is gone. Fortunately, there are experienced immigration attorneys working to find alternative solutions for DACAs. The options include both immigrant and non-immigrant paths to legal status. For those that do not wish to cross their fingers and hope for the best, these are some of their potential options.

Family-Based Green Card

DACA recipients who have an immediate relative that is a U.S. citizen are eligible for sponsorship from that relative for permanent residence (green card). Sponsorship means the sponsor can demonstrate the ability to financially support the immigrant relative. Eligible immediate family members include parents, spouse, children and siblings. If a DACA recipient has a spouse or parent who has their green card, they may also be eligible for green card sponsorship. For recipients with a qualifying relative, the green card application process will vary based on how he or she entered the U.S. and the status and relationship of the family member who will be the sponsor. The process will generally be easier if the DACA recipient entered on a visa through lawful entry as opposed to unauthorized entry.

Qualify for Asylum?

Asylum applicants must submit evidence to show they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country. And, to be granted asylum in the U.S., you must prove that you fear persecution in your home country based on your race, nationality, religion, political opinion and/or membership in a social group. There is a one-year deadline after entering the U.S. to apply for asylum. However, this requirement does not apply to those under 18. If you file for asylum within a year after turning 18 (or any time while you’re still under 18), your asylum application won’t be denied for late filing. In limited circumstances there is the possibility of being able to file beyond one year.

Marriage To a U.S. Citizen

Marriage is a potential path to a green card for undocumented immigrants. The marriage must be based on a relationship that is bona fide—meaning for good faith reasons. You and your spouse will have to persuade U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and possibly a U.S. Consulate abroad, that your relationship is genuine. There is no required documentation to prove your relationship, but common examples include:
  • Jointly filed taxes
  • Jointly held credit cards and retirement accounts
  • photographs showing the two of you together as a couple
  • jointly held insurance
  • affidavits from friends and family
  • proof of cohabitation
  • birth certificates of your children
The DACA recipient must have entered on a visa. Without a valid entry, the recipient may be eligible to get a green card through marriage by using a waiver process. These are only the more common methods to legal status—each with further requirements and exceptions. Some other less common methods may include U Visas for victims of crimes who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, or waivers that may be available to help qualify for certain work visas. Immigration law is extremely complicated. There are over 20 different types of non-immigrant visas and many different immigration court procedural maneuvers that can be attempted. The only way to determine if a DACA recipient may qualify for legal status outside of the DACA program is to meet with an experienced Oregon immigration law attorney as soon as possible.

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