Some legal options for Dreamers to start thinking about during #DACApolypse.
I preface this by saying don’t let up advocacy and working with allies on the ground, and in the halls of Congress. Ultimately we need our leaders to act. But I’m a lawyer, and so I’m going to talk about legal options that can help at least some people. These are NOT exhaustive options and are meant to shed light on options that MAY exist. Nothing can substitute for the targeted advice of a lawyer, and every case is different. But this way you can collect the information a lawyer may need to fashion a way for you to stay.
Broadly, Dreamers fall into three categories:
1. Kids who entered legally and overstayed or otherwise fell out of status.
2. Kids who entered illegally and were not caught.
3. Kids who entered illegally, were caught, and now have final orders of removal for various reasons.
For (1), options such as bona fide marriage to a US citizen spouse may work. Be sure it’s a real marriage with intent to live together and establish a life together! And if DACA was obtained before age 18 years 6 months, or if some other status like TPS exists, employment-based immigration options may work, though this has to be very carefully planned and will require consular processing instead of green card filing inside the US.
It may also work for those in category (2) if the DACA holder has left the US and re-entered on advance parole (travel document/permiso para viajar)
Otherwise, those in all categories need to (while they still can) talk to a lawyer about potential asylum claims. By definition, if they have DACA, they will have been here for more than 1 year, which usually bars asylum – unless one can show changed country conditions or personal circumstances or other extraordinary reasons why asylum wasn’t filed within 1 year of entry.
That means finding out what’s going on with your family back home.
- Have any family members been threatened or targeted by a criminal gang?
- Did your religion change?
- Did you come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual?
- Did you take part in political activities or make any statements your home country’s government would harm you for?
- Did any of your family members make such statements, write a song, publish something?
- Do you belong to an ethnic or religious minority and your home country has begun targeting other members of your group?
- Do you have tattoos that might be misinterpreted by the police or a gang in your home country?
- Did you survive something terrible in your home country and couldn’t file asylum because you couldn’t bring yourself to talk about it?
- Do you have any family members who held any jobs or positions that a gang, extremist group, criminal enterprise, or the government itself might not like?
- Is there a new war or conflict going on that might affect you or your family/community/tribe?
These are the types of questions I’d want to ask you if you came to my office. Again – not exhaustive. Just something to start thinking about.
If you have an order of removal, collect all evidence from when you came into the US. If you don’t have it, it may be possible (and even necessary, though risky) to file a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) to get copies of your immigration paperwork. A lawyer can then determine whether there were any legal deficiencies with that paperwork that might entitle you to have your deportation case reopened, cancelling the deportation order, which means ICE would not be able to just pick you up and deport you.
If you have *any* pending criminal charges, get an immigration lawyer in addition to your defense attorney. It will be that much more important for the immigration consequences of the case to be considered.
If nothing works, it’s time to think about options to lessen the chance that ICE picks you up.
Bottom line: *now* is the time to explore your options. You might not qualify right now for anything, but you might make yourself qualify by, say, finding an employer or learning something about new dangers back home. It’s a lot harder to do this from inside a detention center. Right now you have your freedom, so use it. I meant what I said earlier: fear kills your intelligence and your courage, and you’ll need both to get through this. But you’re not alone.
We are with you.
Estamos con todos Uds.
Nous sommes avec vous.
ہم آپ کے ساتھ ہیں۔
हम आपके साथ हैं
ਅਸੀਂ ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਨਾਲ ਹਾਂ