Court Decision Offers Path To Legal Status For Some Iowans
For the first time in three years, people who were brought to the United States as young children can apply for a program that would give them protected status. Iowans without legal status have already taken their first steps to qualify for the program.
Last Friday, a federal court ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to begin accepting new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a temporary protected status for people who were brought to the United States at a young age. This is the first time in three years the department will accept new applications. The mandate also requires the department to extend all grants of deferred action for two years.
Iowa immigration attorney Trey Sucher primarily serves Spanish-speaking clients in matters related to immigration, criminal defense and family law. He said his firm has heard from a significant number of people who want to apply for the temporary benefit. Sucher said most are siblings of current DACA recipients.
“One of the cool things I see that's going to happen in the very near future, by being able to apply for the first time, submit an initial application, a lot of these families will be able to inch closer, I wouldn't call it a full step closer, but inch closer to family unity," Sucher said.
The American Immigration Council estimates nearly 28,000 U.S. citizens in Iowa live with a family member who does not have legal status.
Sucher said many of those people had reached out after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June, which upheld the constitutionality of the DACA program. He said the most recent federal court decision was "much more explicit." It mandated specific actions from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, like notifying all eligible recipients that applications are being accepted.
The DACA program provides a two-year protected status in the United States. It is not a path to citizenship nor a path to a green card. It does, however, provide the benefit of a social security number and legal employment. The application fee for each DACA request is $495. The fee cannot be waived, but Sucher's firm does offer free consultations to help people determine how to best go about earning legal status.
The DACA program is not in the clear yet though, Sucher clarified. There is time to appeal the decision.
But Sucher said upholding all aspects of DACA will benefit Iowa.
“People that have Social Security numbers and Employment Authorization documents are eligible to be employed legally, and can help our current labor market," Sucher said. "So I would say economic impacts are going to be broad and pretty immediate.”
Sucher said he hopes the DACA program will be more consistent once the Biden administration takes office in January.