Since it was first proposed in the U.S. Senate in 2001, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) has held the promise of a better life for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The special path to citizenship for DREAMers in the 2013 immigration reform bill is being proclaimed the “best version yet“ with more immigrants standing to benefit than ever before.
What some DREAMers still don’t know is that securing a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) approval before immigration reform passes will likely give them many more benefits than if they had just waited for a DREAM Act to pass. While DACA doesn’t provide as many rights to immigrants as the proposed DREAM Act would, it’s important for DREAMers to know how they can stand to benefit from DACA if and when comprehensive immigration reform is finally approved.
Here’s how a DACA approval could help you if the 2013 version of the DREAM Act passes:
A DACA approval will most likely put you first in line for RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) Status and Citizenship
In the new immigration bill proposed by the Senate this past April, DACA recipients will be grandfathered in to the RPI process and path to citizenship, and they would automatically qualify for provisional legal status. Much of their application will be simplified since they have already submitted a great deal of relevant personal information to USCIS. Unlike DREAMers without DACA approval, they will be immediately eligible for citizenship once they are a Legal Permanent Resident.
This will also be a huge advantage for DACA candidates because with 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., the government anticipates a huge influx of applications once RPI status becomes available. The shortage of competent immigration lawyers may also slow down the approval process.
A DACA approval means you will probably pay less to become a Legal Resident
Generally, the price of immigration cases goes up with each government form required for submission. With fewer forms to fill out and fewer documents to submit than those who do not have DACA approval, experts predict a DACA-Approved DREAMer will spend a great deal less on their RPI application than a non-DACA DREAMer will.
A DACA approval means you can submit fewer documents when applying to become a Legal Resident
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the DACA program will serve as a “good pilot for the RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) process, which would be the path for DREAMers to gain citizenship. This tells us there is a good chance the application processes for DACA and RPI will be very similar, and if USCIS already has your documents on file, you would not need to resubmit them. The only piece of the application that would be repeated would be a second background check and biometrics test to make sure you haven’t committed any crimes since your DACA application.
A DACA approval stops you from accruing “Unlawful Presence in the U.S.
Without a DACA approval, not only are you at risk for deportation, you are also accruing unlawful presence in the country. This will be a weighing factor for USCIS officials when reviewing applications for the RPI program. Undocumented immigrants begin to accumulate unlawful presence when they turn 18, which can result in paying back taxes later on. If you are under 18 and receive a DACA approval, you can prevent yourself from accruing any unlawful status in the U.S.
A DACA approval helps you move forward with your life while you wait for a DREAM Act to pass
Deferred Action grantees have to the opportunity to obtain a legal work permit, a Social Security Card, a driver’s license in almost every state, the freedom to travel throughout the country without risk of detention, and even the freedom to travel abroad in limited amounts. None of these privileges are allowed to undocumented immigrants who have not been approved for DACA. If you qualify, there is no reason not to apply.