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Worst case scenario for DACA applicants

Carlos Batara, an immigration lawyer, is quoted by PBS as saying that he is against DREAMers applying for DACA.  He says, "If you're willing to risk and assume that they (US Government) will never come back and use the information you have given them against you to bring you into removal proceedings, and if you assume -- or you assume the DREAM Act is going to pass, that's fine."  Obviously, many other competent attorneys do not seem to agree with this advice and have been telling their clients to file the paperwork for DACA, get a work permit, and have some protection against deportation for two years.  It seems, though, that some undocumented immigrants maybe heeding advice like this and not applying, because with the December 2012 statistics made available by the USCIS, a meager 368,000 people have applied so far, much less than the number expected to apply (data on illegal immigrants is always difficult to collect since most individuals will not admit to their legal status but the estimates ranged all the way to 1.7 millions).

Undocumented immigrants do not appear to have the financial means to pay for their legalization:    It is also being argued that many DREAMers cannot afford the $465 application fee (which is shocking on many levels:  how can anyone in America not have a few hundred dollars?  If these individuals are not able to come up with approximately five hundred dollars, how will they pay for their legalization if DREAM Act is passed?  Should Americans be concerned that if the illegal immigrants are so impoverished that once they are legalized they will not overwhelm the social welfare programs?).

Other than these two reasons for the low number of applicants for DACA is the inability of many undocumented immigrants to compile the documents needed for the application.  Many of them cannot prove their date of entry into the country or have no solid evidence to confirm other requirements.  Of course, I am not even mentioning those who are ineligible by virtue of their criminal histories or dropping out of high school -- details that are often missed by immigrant activists who simply counted as everyone being eligible.

So are attorneys like Batara right about their fears?          The United States government has assured that except for dangerous criminals and terrorists, the data provided by applicants will not be used by any other agency within the government, but here are a few worst-case scenarios that immigrants need to think about:

  1. By providing your fingerprints, information on your background and addresses, entry into the United States, work history, tax returns, etc. an applicant is voluntarily confessing to committing crimes like illegal entry into USA, unlawful presence in the country, false visas/passports/social security cards, working without authorization, identity theft, fraud, etc, providing documentation in support of one's crimes, and thus, implicating themselves.  The application process alone is a solid enough case for conviction and deportation.
  2. The DACA program is temporary and unless a Democratic president replaces Obama in 2016 (and that president too supports the program), this program is not guaranteed to continue. Another president may do whatever he or she wants with the data collected during the DACA program.
  3. Considering the deadlock in Washington, there is no guarantee that DREAM Act and/or comprehensive immigration reform will pass
  4. While government has always maintained immigration files forever, the digitization of the documents has made searching much easier.  In case you did not know, many applications can now be filed electronically and even those like DACA that are filed on paper, as soon as they arrive in an USCIS office, they are first digitized.  This means that from anywhere in the world, US government authorized personnel can access the data with just a few clicks.  No need to send memos to retrieve a file from a remote warehouse.  Also important to note that data can be stored forever without worrying about the cost of storage.  For DREAMers, it means that their biographical information has become part of the United States records and can be used in whatever way the authorities deem fit.
  5. While the assurances from the government are comforting, in times of national crises or in case of a national security threat, exceptions can be made by just a few signatures.
  6. The current assumption is that all the crimes that DREAMers are admitting to in their DACA applications will not disqualify them from receiving future immigration benefits, but it is not known exactly what will be the case with future laws.  For instance, if Congress passes a law that anyone who has ever lied about their immigration status to work cannot receive an immigration benefit, those DREAMers who entered a fake Social Security number on their job application are out of luck.
  7. USCIS has already clarified that by ignoring the criminal actions of DREAMers at this time does not mean that they are immune from prosecution in the future.
  8. Many illegal immigrants used an ITIN to work and file taxes.  Not only is this illegal, when the individual files a tax return with an ITIN for income earned in the United States, she is not only reported to the DHS but a paper trail is created documenting a series of crimes including fraud and working without papers.