As immigrants hoping to benefit from President Obama’s executive action await the publication of forms and the official start of the application process, many are now looking to collect the necessary supporting documents showing their eligibility for the immigration relief.
The President’s new initiatives, the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are expected to protect from deportation an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants and provide them with work permits.
The DAPA program extended eligibility for deferred action to certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Meanwhile, the expanded DACA eliminated the age cap of 31 years under the original program and moved the eligibility cut-off date for continuous residence in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.
Under both programs, applicants are required to prove continuous residence in the U.S. For many undocumented immigrants living in the shadows and who have, for the most part, worked “under the table,” used fake names, and tried to remain hidden for fear of deportation, the task of documenting their continuous residence in the U.S. may seem overwhelming.
Also, since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has yet to release specific guidance as to what types of documents will be acceptable, many immigrants are finding it even harder to know exactly what documents to collect.
Fortunately, experience from the initial DACA program launched two years ago has provided advocates some guidance as to what type of documents applicants should be looking for. These include medical records, school records such as diplomas, report cards, and school transcripts, and financial records such as tax records, bank statements, credit card bills and phone bills.
The USCIS also accepted vehicle registrations, baptism records, mortgages, and postmarked letters under the initial DACA program. Because some of these documents are not readily available to the undocumented, advocates recommend that applicants make use of any evidence they might have to establish their presence in the U.S.
Advocates have used, among others, social media postings in the form of Facebook photos, movie rental receipts, and customer loyalty programs with transaction history details.
Also, applicants are urged to collect at least one document per month for each month until the application is submitted. If the applicant is not able to account for a gap during the relevant period, advocates have suggested obtaining affidavits from people who have personal knowledge of their presence in the U.S.
For DAPA applicants, they should start obtaining copies of their child’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate or green card.
Critics of the program have indicated that the system is open to fraud. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to review safeguards.
The anti-fraud unit of the USCIS has been expanded and it has increased “the scope and frequency” of fraud investigations. Former USCIS anti-fraud unit head, Louis D. Crocetti, has recommended “more random interviews of applicants and periodic home visits for recipients.”
The USCIS plans to begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA program in February and the DAPA program in May.