‘Dare to Dream,’ a forum on deferred action for childhood arrivals

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Consul General Marciano A. Paynor Jr. and IBP California President Melba Cawit surrounded by IBP members exchange MOA regarding their free legal consultation service at the consulate every Friday afternoon. PHOTO/E.M. Chavez

SAN FRANCISCO – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, California in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco sponsored a forum titled “Dare to Dream” to further clarify the criteria of who can avail of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Process. Prior to the start of the forum, Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr. and IBP, California President Melba Cawit, signed a Memorandum of Agreement to formalize IBP’s Free consultations at the consulate every Friday from I:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.. Manned by volunteer lawyers from IBP, California, the free service has been operating for months but is not well known in the community.  The free service is part of the social corporate activity of the Filipino American lawyers organization and they invite everyone to take advantage of this free service by qualified California Filipino lawyers.

Dare to Dream forum dealt with the hottest current immigration policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Consul General Paynor, Jr. said that he invited the consulate staff to attend the forum as well to enlighten them, since many Filipinos are asking about it. Paynor said that “It is not within their jurisdiction and responsibility to interpret US Policies” but it would help the staff understand the issues.

Cawit said the focus of the forum is to give a legal interpretation on the DACA since there have been misconceptions regarding this presidential immigration policy.  Cawit explained that DACA refers to individuals who came to the US as children. They did not come in voluntarily and has expired visa. It was not their own choosing in breaking the immigration law. The forum had three California practicing lawyers interpreting the policy. They were Attys. Lourdes Tancinco, Alberto G. Montefalcon, Jr. and Flomy J. Diza.

The lawyers delved on different situations affecting individuals covered by DACA but basically, as Atty. Tancinco explained, the government thinks that “instead of being in the shadow – they are able to harness their skills and become more productive members of the community.”

The Obama initiative started on August  15, 2012. There is no deadline to file but applicant needs to pass stringent rules. If one’s application is approved, it gives the individual a social security number, a possible work authorization and a driver license. The caveat? It’s only good for two  years. The individual has a temporary pass to live a “normal” life in America for the next two years. It gives hope to young productive undocumented immigrants a chance to fix their immigration status and a reprieve from deportation.

Around 2 million will benefit from this process but since it is a policy not passed in congress it’s only good for two years, but subject to renewal. Many are anxious that if Obama loses the presidency so will their hope of continued support from the government.

Criteria for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals is as follows:

  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Application can be downloaded online and has an application fee of $465 that cannot be deferred except for extreme cases.

Tancinco said that DACA is similar to the Dream Act that did not pass congress but is not even close to it. But is gives opportunity to work and continue studies. She further emphasized that approval of DACA doe not mean legalization. It is not permanent. Not a pass to legalization or citizenship and does not confer legalization. She said that it is just an Administrative relief existing since 1971. However, has not been continuously exercised by the executive branch. DACA is merely a directive, a stop gap measure of the Obama immigration program. It stops ICE from deporting or removal proceedings against overstaying/undocumented immigrants.

No matter, DACA gives temporary relief for thousands of students who don’t know any place but America and who are desperate to live a normal life even for just two years.  Tancinco stressed though that California has a “Dream Act” of its own and there – is another relief for the undocumented immigrant in California.

Montefalcon on the other hand enumerated what would disqualify an applicant:

Travel abroad is limited and only for emergencies. Young immigrants cannot travel.  Persons charged with misdemeanor and DUI are disqualified. There is no appeal when application is denied.

Atty. Diza stressed that although application forms are available online, it is best to consult with an immigration lawyer. It helps in the process and can help avoid unnecessary hope if person does not fit the criteria. DACA application fee is $465 and cannot be expedited.

For those Filipinos who might have “acquired” a different identity or “change” of name during their years of being undocumented, the consulate is offering to assist in providing proper identification.

The lawyers confirmed that according to the USCIS information given in the DACA application will not and cannot be shared with other government entities. They will remain confidential except those with criminal offense or circumstances regarding national security.

For more information on the deferred action for childhood arrivals process visit www.uscis.gov.

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