Ask an Immigration Lawyer: I Am Confused About DACA. Can I Still Apply?

Art by Alan López for Remezcla

It’s a frightening time for immigrants. Although previous presidents have deported immigrants in large numbers, many – especially those without criminal records – felt a relative sense of normalcy. But with an administration that is outwardly hostile toward immigrant populations, any comfort previously felt is gone. As Donald Trump attempts to tighten immigration laws and cut down on even legal forms of migration into the United States, it can be difficult to keep up with the changing landscape.

That’s why we have launched the Ask an Immigration Lawyer column. Twice a month, Nubia Willman – a Chicago-based immigration attorney with nearly decade of experience – answers your questions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and more. This column is not meant to be construed as legal advice. You should not act upon any information provided without seeking the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. 

Submit a question here and check out previous columns here.

Dear Nubia: I am so confused about whether DACA can be renewed or not. Is it possible to still renew DACA, even if it is expired?

–Hopeful DACA

Dear Hopeful: DACA is an ongoing saga so it is logical that you feel confused. In 2012, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order allowing people (children and young adults) who entered the US prior to turning 30 and before June 2007 to apply for deferred action. The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA for short.

DACA grants the applicant deferred action, which is a type of remedy that exists in different variations within immigration. Deferred action basically makes the person low-priority for enforcement, allows them to apply for a work permit, and in some programs, may create a path for lawful permanent residency. DACA is a valuable remedy that allows young immigrants to work lawfully, earn wages, pay taxes, feel protected, and builds safer communities. It allows our colleagues and classmates to build lives just like those of us lucky enough to have status are able to do. It is a valuable program worth defending. And it needs defending.

Soon after its initiation, there were multiple lawsuits filed by law enforcement officials and other agencies questioning the legality of this remedy. While DACA persevered despite the lawsuits, it became more limited when the Obama administration attempted to expand the program. This expansion would have granted deferred action to parents of childhood arrivals and expanded the age limit of eligibility. More lawsuits ensued, this time more successful. The federal judge issued an injunction that stopped the expansion, but allowed people who already had DACA to continue to file for renewal. And that is where we currently stand procedurally. Only those that applied and obtained DACA at the onset of this program can continue to renew. If someone never filed previously, even if they were eligible, they cannot file now. If their DACA is expired, they may still be able to file for a renewal. One small point is that if someone files they must pay the $485 fee for the work permit and if, while the application is pending, some legal decision is made that ends this program, it’s possible that the money will be lost. That is why many people are encouraged to re-new way before the customary 120 days.

But it ultimately is an individual choice as to whether one wants to “risk” possibly losing the money or remaining/falling out of a deferred action protection. If the money to renew is an issue, there are organizations and programs that offer loans and scholarships to people to help them with re-filing fee. If the money is the barrier keeping one from renewing, then it is worth investigating.


Disclaimer: The information on this column is not legal advice. Legal information is not the same as legal advice, which is the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information provided in this column is not a substitute for and does not replace the advice or representation of a licensed attorney. Although Remezcla goes to great lengths to make sure the information on the column is accurate and up to date, we make no claim as to the accuracy of this information and are not responsible for any consequences that may result from the use of this column.

We recommend that you consult with a licensed attorney if you want assurance that the information on the Remezcla and your interpretation of it are appropriate for your particular situation. You should not and are not authorized to rely on this column as a source of legal advice. The use of this column does not create an attorney-client relationship between Remezcla, its agents, and any user.