Apply for DACA with DUI probation before judgment

Antonio writes, "I had a DUI in the State of Maryland and I am currently under probation before judgment. Should I admit this on my application?  Would there be a necessity for me to hire a lawyer?"

Honesty is the best policy while dealing with law enforcement:  Of course, you HAVE to admit this on your application and provide the paperwork to the USCIS for any immigration benefit.  Lying about or hiding information from the USCIS something that is part of public records, that will definitely be found out through a search during background check is a bad idea.  Nothing annoys an officer more than someone hiding a piece of information that is in the government records.

DUI charges may remain on your record forever:  However, it seems that you may not be eligible for DACA anyway because in Maryland, a full background check by the USCIS will reveal your DUI case and the record will not be expunged even if you successfully complete your probation.  After completing the probation successfully, if the judge does let you register as not guilty, you do not have to admit in a job application that you were convicted but if an employer does a full background check they will still find out exactly what happened and might decide not to hire you, particularly for a job that requires you to drive a car as part of your work (some companies will not hire you even if you will only drive a vehicle during an occasional business trip).  For the same reason, applying for DACA is tricky.  Applicants really have no rights in this case and it all depends at the discretion of the prosecutor so if the prosecutor sees that you are under probation for DUI, most likely he will deny it.  So you may want to wait for Obama Amnesty to pass and hope that the law will forgive a DUI on record.

I strongly suggest that you consult with a very good attorney (an immigration attorney not the one you used for your DUI case) before deciding.  This is a very complex case at this stage as well as for any other immigration application you might decide to file.

Can I apply for DACA if I lied about working

Catalina writes, "I am in the process of applying for DACA. I am married and my husband is the one who works full time and I clean houses and get paid in cash or personal checks.  When we file our taxes jointly with our ITIN numbers I always put that I am not working. Is this something that can hurt me? What should I put on Form I-765WS?"

Legally speaking, you broke the law by not paying income taxes on the income you had (you also committed perjury by not disclosing your work because when you signed off on IRS Form 1040 you lied and that is a huge problem; basically the Internal Revenue Service considers this tax fraud and there are severe penalties for avoiding taxes).  As you might understand, while, it is easy to hide cash payment, but a check that you cashed is always in bank's systems and it can be found out that you worked illegally and did not pay taxes.  US law really does not like people not paying taxes on their income.

As far as DACA is concerned, you should disclose your current income, however small it is, on Form I-765WS.  Don't worry about not paying taxes at this point because the Government is not asking about your tax returns.  If you are eligible otherwise and provide all the documents, you will be approved.  However, if Obama amnesty passes and you want to become legal, at that time, you must declare your income, pay back taxes on it, and you will be okay.  In the meantime, though, you should also honestly pay your taxes.

Online tax filing for DACA approved DREAMers with real and fake SSN

I have already discussed the importance of filing taxes by DACA approved DREAMers (and for that matter by anyone who earns income in the United States and may owe taxes to the Internal Revenue Service).  As I said in the previous article, if you have never worked illegally before and started your employment only after receiving legal authorization to work and a valid Social Security number issued to you by the SSA, then filing taxes a piece of cake and can be done using a tax software like TurboTax (the one that I have used for about ten years, and while it is not perfect for my complex taxes, it is good enough for vast majority of people).

Undocumented aliens who used a false SS# will encounter tax filing problems:  The problem is that so many DREAMers have worked illegally using a made-up SS# or they have committed identity theft and are using someone else's SSN.  Assuming that you have switched jobs after you were given a genuine SSN or that somehow you were lucky that the employer changed your Social Security number, unless the employer really knows how to manipulate the accounting records, you should get at least two sets of W-2 forms (those of you who were using your ITIN to work must first update the IRS records with your new SSN and then wait several weeks before filing taxes to make absolutely sure that the IRS records have been updated; if you are very close to the April 15 deadline when you get your new Social Security number, it is best to ask for an extension for filing and file later, or if for some reason you are still in a hurry to file, attach a copy of your request to update your ITIN with SSN with your taxes), one with your older phony number that you were using and the second with the correct number.  Illegal immigrants who were working with a SSN that was assigned to them but was not valid for employment without authorization have broken other laws but they would have no problem filing their taxes.

So what can you do to file taxes for the year 2012?  Well, don't even try e-file of any kind.  Since it is illegal to use a Social Security number that does not belong to you, trying to use a software to enter more than one number for an individual is not an option.  Depending on the software that you use and how it works, chances are that the software might stop you with an error message at some point.  It might detect that you are trying to engage in a fraudulent act.  Even if that goes through, there is no guarantee that the IRS will accept your efiled taxes, an important step in the tax filing process.

The only option left is to use the old-fashioned paper filing process.  The reality is that because you are obligated to pay your taxes whether your work was legal or not, the IRS will accept your filing even if your taxes are a mess and there is no way to correctly allocate your Social Security and Medicare payments.  However, you should keep a copy of each and everything that you provide with your taxes so that when the time comes to take advantage of the Obama Amnesty, you will be able to prove to the USCIS that you have been paying taxes.  That would one less year of paying back taxes and you will also avoid the penalty and interest on late payment of taxes.

Should DREAMers wait for CIR or file for DACA

When I noticed the pathetically small number of DACA applications by the end of five months in January 2013, I hypothesized that DREAMers were saving their $465 for DACA and were simply waiting for Comprehensive Immigration Reform to pass.  I had addressed this issue in November 2012 as well whether DREAMers should keep applying for DACA or wait out for CIR and my answer was that unless you have a pressing financial situation that you can't come up with the money, you should apply for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals because the shorter is the time period that you are out under lawful status, the better it is.

Now that the Obama Amnesty is a reality more than ever before, it is tempting to wait.  After all if you have been undocumented for so long, what difference a few more months make?  After all you can save almost $500.  Indeed, these are serious arguments to wait and see, but here are other points to consider:

  1. Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a contentious issue and considering the level of opposition among some groups, there is a fairly high probability that it will simply die in Congress.  If that were to happen, you will need to file for DACA while many other DREAMers are doing the same.  At that point, expect massive delays in approvals.
  2. It is tempting to convince yourself that politicians are working for you and an amnesty will be a reality soon.  The reality is that politicians work only for themselves; they don't care about the party or even the American people.  The last thing on their minds is concerns of illegals.  Each and every politician is playing a game and an amnesty is only a bi-product of that game, not the goal.
  3. While DREAMers will get a green card under the amnesty, assuming the bill is passed in 2013, by the time USCIS starts accepting applications, it could very well be summer of 2014.  The first set of approvals may not come until early 2015.  Till that time, you will legally not be able to work.  While the number of DACA applications was much lower than anticipated, and unless the actual number of DREAMers is smaller than estimated, chances are that if CIR were to pass and permanent resident cards are being handed out, there will be a surge in applications that there could be massive delays.  Even some DACA applicants have experienced unusual delays in their approvals.
  4. Deportation will continue to be a priority of Obama Administration while all this is going on because this is a central feature of the reform and it is the only way to build public opinion in favor.  Without a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) approval in your hand, you can be deported at any time with no recourse.

Earned citizenship for DREAMers program details

While the Senate proposal includes an amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants, it seems that President Obama wants to bring some of the elements of DREAM Act into comprehensive immigration reform to help the DREAMers who came as children to America.  Under what the president calls as "Earned Citizenship for DREAMers" plan, as long as they attend college or serve in the United States Military for two years, they will be able to get a green card right away rather than wait for immigrant visas to be available, as is the case for a typical undocumented alien.  This also means that after five years of being a permanent resident, a DREAMer will be able to naturalize.  This means that many DREAMers could take their oaths as American citizens in just over five years from the day the president signs the amnesty into law (many of them are already college graduates), assuming that the process for them will take just a few months for their green card applications to process.  If the law is enacted in 2013, we will start minting new DREAMer citizens by 2018/2019 (the naturalization process is fairly fast these days) and they can vote in 2020 mid-term elections.

What will happen if I am not eligible for Obama Amnesty?

It is great news for illegal immigrants that under the Obama Amnesty or Comprehensive Immigration Reform they will be able to get a right to live and work legally, apply for a green card when their turn comes, and then eventually acquire American citizenship.  So if you have been more or less a law abiding individual (clearly illegal entry or unlawful stay in the country, working without papers, and fraudulent use of Social Security numbers are being condoned and no punishment will be given) you will be able to achieve the dream of every undocumented alien: a shiny American passport that opens many doors for you. 

So will every illegal in America be able to become legal?  Well, if you have a serious criminal past, then you are out, and if you try to apply, you will simply be arrested and deported, but there will be many others who will not be able to legalize themselves.  For instance, it will cost thousands of dollars in USCIS fees, attorney bills, fines, and back taxes, that many immigrants will not be able to afford the legalization process.  Any process like this also requires enormous paperwork and if you don't have the documents, you have no hope.  You will need to prove with a valid document every thing you claim in your application.  Other aliens simply have problems in their history that will disqualify them.  For example, if you entered the United States with a fraudulent passport or visa or committed fraud in interaction with the United States, and if it is found out, you cannot be legalized. 

Additional barriers to permanent residency:  In order to acquire a green card, individuals will also need to demonstrate proficiency in written and spoken English and we all know how that works: so many immigrants who have been here for years and even decades refuse to learn English.  It is also important to understand that in order to become a permanent resident, one would need to demonstrate a history of work in the United States (I am hoping that there will be exceptions for housewives and elderly), and that means that people who do not like to work or their way of making a living is criminal activities, they too will have no future.

Restrictions on working illegally:   In addition, the border will be sealed so many unauthorized aliens who keep crossing the border will be unable to do so.  Use of E-verify means that no one will be able to find work illegally (I am sure that there will be some employers who will be willing to break the law and hire undocumented workers but it will be harder and less prevalent).  And finally, the government will easily find people who will be without papers because a lot more people will have valid papers. 

The net effect is that illegal aliens who are unable to take advantage of this amnesty will find that their lives are going to become a lot more difficult and the best option for them will be to simply self-deport before they are arrested and forcefully deported.

Potential for fraud in Obama immigration amnesty

It is no secret that the Reagan Amnesty was very poorly executed in which hundreds of thousands of illegals were able to submit false evidence to legalize themselves.  Many of them are permanent residents today, and while some have even been able to become naturalized citizens using those initial fraudulent documents, others are afraid of filing for naturalization (that is why so few of them actually became citizens).

Apparently, the 2013 Obama Comprehensive Immigration Reform also has a loophole that will allow for massive fraud.  In the outline document, it states that undocumented aliens working on farms, because of their important contribution and role, "will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population.”  Yes, in addition to DREAMers, who came as children to America, only the farm workers will be able to fast track their green card and citizenship applications.

So how will the fraud work?  Well, it is very ironical that any legalization of undocumented immigrants actually requires submission of lot of documents.  So those illegal DREAMers learned the hard way that while they purposely avoided getting too many documents but were then required to submit evidence for everything.  Fortunately, if you are a farm worker, the requirement might be as simple as an affidavit from a farmer that an immigrant has been working on his farm.  So expect a lot of farmers to make some serious money in issuing fraudulent documents and do not be surprised to see college graduates lining up for fast track permanent residency applications pretending to be farm workers.

What is the probability of CIR passage in Congress?

My assessment of the Obama Immigration Amnesty is that while it will take decades for some Mexicans (natives of other countries, particularly, rich countries in Europe or Japan, which hardly send any illegals) to become citizens, it is a good compromise for the undocumented aliens.  At least they get to become legal right away and that will enable them to work legally, not be afraid of being deported, have access to driver's licenses, buy health insurance, travel overseas, and put down their roots in the country permanently, even though they will not be able to sponsor their family members right away to immigrate to the US.

So will the Tea Party and other Conservatives kills Comprehensive Immigration Reform?  The rhetoric makes it seem that way and we all know how difficult it was to pass ObamaCare.  In fact, Washington is so dysfunctional that President Obama cannot even get routine appointments through Congress.  Plus, the filibuster is still very much in place.  It is also likely that all the Republicans like Arizona Senator John McCain and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are supporting the plan merely to look more friendly to Latino voters, knowing fully well that GOP in the House will kill it eventually.  Both parties will blame each other the way they do every time the debt ceiling is not raised.  Congressman John Boehner has nothing to lose if CIR is dead.

What is interesting, though, is that 75% of Americans who supported the DREAM Act was not an anomaly.  Believe it or not but a Fox New poll found that 2 out of 3 Americans favor path to citizenship for undocumented aliens.  Even 56% of Republicans support that.  So it seems that politicians will really be going against public opinion if they kill this initiative.

How will illegals legalize under 2013 Obama Amnesty?

Who will be eligible for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that provides green card and path to citizenship?

  1. Lived for several years in USA:  The exact timing is not yet clear but anyone who has lived in the US for several years (at least 5 in my opinion) will be eligible.  So foreigners who entered the country only recently will not be eligible.  The alien will also need to demonstrate that they have been in the country for the period required by providing documents.  
  2. Acceptable criminal background:  If you have committed a felony, do not even think about legalizing. It is not clear how many misdemeanors will be allowed but I expect maybe three at the most.  More details have to come later, but if you have many crimes in your background, you need to rethink your future in America (expect deportation in case you are caught without papers).
  3. Pay a fine:  The exact amount will be revealed later but you will need to pay a one-time cash penalty.
  4. Pay back taxes:  The good news about the law is that most likely if you worked illegally or used a falsified Social Security number but were not caught or convicted, you will be forgiven (in other words, no punishment for identity theft or forged papers for working).  However, if you did not file taxes on the money you earned in the United States either because you were being paid cash under the table or you simply did not want to give your money to the IRS, you will need to pay income taxes on every dollar you have earned, along with interest.
  5. Learn English and Civics, equivalent to what is required for passing the naturalization test.  There might be some exceptions for elderly applicants but you will need to demonstrate proficiency in English reading, writing, and speaking through an in-person test with an officer of the USCIS.
What will be the process of legalization?


As soon as USCIS starts to process the applications, register with the government by getting fingerprinted and providing background information.  Also complete other applications as advised along with paying a fine and back taxes.  If approved, you will be given a temporary/probationary legal status that will enable you to work and live legally.  You will also be able to travel freely outside the United States, more or less like a green card holder.

After the Federal Government has started issuing green cards to people like you, depending on your native country, you will wait for availability of an immigrant visa.  That can take more than a decade for countries like Mexico, but at that point, you will need to go through a more extensive background check, demonstrate good work history, prove that you have been paying taxes regularly, and learn English/Civics to finally get a permanent residency or green card.

After you have been a permanent resident for 5 years (3 years if you married to a US citizen who also has been a citizen for three years and the requirements are even more lenient for those who have served in the Military), you can apply for naturalization and receive a US passport.

A different but less restrictive process will be used for DREAMers and agricultural workers but details are yet to be released.

What are the restrictions?
  1. Since in the beginning, you will have only probationary or temporary legal status, you will not be able to apply for any Federal benefits like Medicare, Medicaid, etc., but individual states may extend other benefits to you like Welfare, Food Stamps (SNAP), unemployment insurance, etc.

DREAMers betting on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

From the USCIS monthly report on DACA statistics released in January 2013 covering the period up to January 17, it is clear that DREAMers have given up on DACA.  During the 30 day period a meager 16,500 DREAMers -- a record low for the program -- applied for deferred action for childhood arrivals and a work permit for the right to work legally for two years.  Obviously, most of the serious candidates applied as soon as the program was announced by President Obama and the expected surge after his reelection never came

Fewer DREAMers than estimated or many more with criminal histories:   It must also be pointed out that either the advocates of undocumented aliens got it so wrong in their estimates (compared to their projections of an estimated 1.2 to 1.7 millions, less than 400,000 individuals have applied) or they underestimated the criminal backgrounds of DREAMers (I still have a hard time believing that they don't have the money to pay the $465 fee because if they don't have this much money they should not even be fighting for an amnesty because legalizing under any amnesty will cost at least $10,000 in fees, back taxes, penalties, etc.).

DREAMers in wait-and-see mode:    It is also likely that many illegal immigrants are watching if Comprehensive Immigration Reform passes through Congress because for the time being at least the chatter is very loud.  Politicians on both sides are positioning themselves for the 2014 mid-term elections and some on the GOP side are preparing for their presidential ambitions in 2016 by sounding more conciliatory towards unauthorized immigrants.  Despite all this, it is impossible to get much done in Washington.  Like many other experts, I fear that the Democratic strategy of getting everything done in one bill may sink it because if Republicans do not like some aspects they will kill the whole bill, thus, denying DREAMers a shot at DREAM Act.

How to explain DACA status to others?

Now that so many DREAMers are DACA approved, they have the dilemma of explaining their immigration situation to others and I have heard from several of them in this regard.  Here are some tips on how to handle this sensitive topic.

Current employer:  If you started working illegally in the past, you have a very important decision to make after you are approved under DACA and assigned a valid Social Security number.  You MUST work using your new SSN and you have to do that ASAP because failing to do so only means that you will be breaking a host of laws.  Remember that in America the citizens and legal residents are held to a much higher standard for following the law and if you dream of being in those shoes some day, this is your taste of what lies ahead.  You cannot aspire to be legal but continue to break the law.  Accordingly, you should leave your current job, theoretically the day you get approved, and get a new job with the valid SS#.  Theoretically speaking an employer cannot simply change your Social Security number without jeopardizing your and the company's future because hiring illegal workers is a crime as much as working illegally.  The right approach is to quietly quit and start a new life.  Having said that, some immigrants have had some luck with employers who have changed their information without much trouble.

Future employers:  The IRS provides some guidelines to employers on dealing with DACA applicants, but you can proudly declare that you are authorized to work legally in the United States.  When you complete Form I-9 on your first day of work, you should check the box that says that you are an alien authorized to work and provide your correct SSN, alien number of A# along with the date of expiration of EAD (remember that it is your duty to renew your DACA and EAD and do not expect a reminder from either the USCIS or your employer; failing to do so may not only jeopardize your renewal and will put you in the category of an illegal worker).  You can also show your EAD and Social Security card and let HR make copies.  There is a possibility that you may not be hired for certain jobs or not even considered but that is not necessarily discrimination.  America is a country of at-will employment which means that you can be hired only at the will of the employer but also that you can be fired at will.  For the same reason, something that we easily forget, you will also work at will and that means, you can quit at any time for any reason.  Obviously, there are guidelines regarding discrimination but practically speaking, if the employer needs to train an employee for six months and they conclude that the employee needs to work for at least three years to get the return on investment in the employee, the employer has a reasonable case that they need not hire someone who only has a year or six months left on their EAD card.  Most employers do not like uncertainty. In addition to that, many companies have their own requirements about hiring only citizens or green card holders or only those employees who do not require sponsorships or those who can freely travel overseas if they need to.  So do not take these things personally and just focus on jobs that you are eligible for.

Apparently there is some confusion about DACA among employers because not only is it a new program many citizens are simply not experts in immigration laws.  To keep things simple, you can merely tell them that you are authorized to work legally in the United States and do not need a sponsor either at this time or in the future at the time of renewal (this is a huge benefit to you compared to, say, H visa holders who always need a sponsor).  While many good companies typically pay for immigration related expenses, do not expect it.  So you should save enough money to pay for DACA and EAD renewal but if the employer pays for it, then you should accept it, because many corporations have employees who need sponsorships and the employers typically pay all fees and attorney charges.

With your colleagues, there is no reason to ever discuss your immigration situation, even if you consider them your friends.  While you maybe able to travel overseas on a business trip using Advanced Parole, it is also best to not take jobs that require international travel, and you should typically avoid the topic of foreign trips at work ("Oh I better start saving for a European vacation now so that I can go in this life!").

Non-illegal immigrant friends and acquaintances:  I am a big fan of "need-to-know" basis for sharing any information.  So for people who do not need to know your immigration status, there is no need to share it.  No need for inviting them to a party to celebrate your DACA approval.  Generally speaking, if someone does ask, it is good to be truthful ("I am legally authorized to work in the US." is a good response because you are still not technically legal).  When you are truthful and develop strong friendships with citizens and permanent citizens, some day they will gladly sign an affidavit for you or act as a reference for you.

Dating:  This is different from friendship.  Also, even though you might think that you are only dating casually, all forms of dating can eventually lead to a serious relationship and marriage.  Except for the folks who start with eHarmony with a very clear goal to get married, almost everyone starts dating casually.  That is why it is important to date with a lot of caution.  You definitely do not want to create a dramatic situation in which you are being deported while the other person is planning a wedding.  So use your judgment in picking who to date or even date at all.  Till your immigration situation is sorted out, it is best to avoid dating citizens and permanent citizens unless you are upfront about it.

Tax responsibilities of DACA approved DREAMers

The United States law is very clear.  If you have income from any source within the United States, it is your responsibility to figure out if you need to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and if you owe anything to Uncle Sam, you pay it.  These laws apply to everyone any where in the world.  You don't need to live (legally or illegally) in the United States of America or even visit (actually it is better not to visit if your tax situation is not clear because you will be arrested at the airport and forced to pay taxes due); the taxes have to paid.  So, for instance, you could have US income from investments in the United States and will then owe taxes.

Tax liability of illegal immigrants:  Let us talk about undocumented aliens living and working in USA.  While it maybe illegal to live and get employment in the country without authorization, you still MUST report your income to the IRS, file taxes, and pay the dues.  Interestingly enough, despite you providing the solid evidence of breaking the law by living and working in the US, the IRS will not report you to ICE.  Actually, by filing taxes, in some ways you are digging a hole for yourself because you are indirectly admitting to working illegally, but your crime will be even serious if you did not file taxes.  In other words, if you are working here legally or illegally, file and pay your taxes.

Using identification number to file taxes:  Typically, a smart illegal immigrant will get an ITIN to file taxes, but most aliens either steal an identity or make up a SSN and file their taxes.  Some even manage to get refunds.  DREAMers who have been approved to work and have a valid Social Security number MUST use only this number to file their taxes.  If they had an ITIN it must be switched to the real SSN.  If a DREAMer was working with a fake SS# it should be abandoned immediately and going forward only the actual number should be used.

Filing and record keeping:  Since taxes can be complex -- though tax software like TurboTax make it easy -- it is best to consult with an accountant.  You maybe able to increase your refund because the tax professionals know if you are entitled to more deductions.  And finally, always keep a copy of your tax files by year in a safe location.  While citizens and legal residents are required to preserve their records for seven years, as an immigrant you must preserve your file till the date you take the oath at a naturalization ceremony.

Experience of DREAMers updating Social Security numbers

Now that DREAMers have been approved for Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and have their genuine SS#, if they have used a fake Social Security number at school, university, bank, IRS, or place of work, they have to figure out how to update that number in order to go on with their lives.  Reports on their experiences are starting to filter and so far it is a mixed bag.

High school, college or an educational institution:  While staff members are unable to change the information because the records are locked after graduation, current students have been able to change their number by lying to an employee (my parents made a mistake, parents gave my family member's number, I don't know what number you have because it is wrong, I have a new number because I was a victim of identity theft) who was either helpful or ignorant or was simply too kind knowing fully well that the DREAMer was an undocumented alien and needed help.

Banks, credit bureaus and credit cards companies:  Since these are private businesses, there is no standard procedure.  Some individuals have been able to do that over the phone while others have had to mail a copy of their Social Security card.  There are reports that some banks have refused to do so either by asking for more documentation or on suspicion of fraud.  Many DREAMers who have been unable to change their numbers have simply closed their accounts and moved their business to a new bank.  It has been somewhat easy to change the information with credit bureaus by those individuals who have had credit histories with made-up numbers.

Place of work:  In some offices it has been as easy as letting someone in Human Resources know the new number or by filling a new form, but in general, most DREAMers are not updating the number (by asking your employer to change your SSN you are screaming at the top of your voice that you lied on your I-9 the first time and thus committed perjury; it can be a huge problem if you also checked the box claiming to be a US citizen).  It is important to note that working with a stolen SS# after you have a real number is not only a criminal act, it creates a lot of complications in your records with the IRS.  This may present significant problems later on with taxes and applying for adjustment of status.

Mortgage and car loan companies:  Since the amounts involved are massive, particularly with home mortgages, the banks are extremely cautious and are giving a hard time to DREAMers.  It is important to remember that by law you are required to file taxes using your valid SSN and since that is what you will be doing, you will not be able to take advantage of mortgage interest deduction, if you itemize your deductions, because the number on your form 1098 mortgage interest statement will be different.

What are the implications?  In general it is safe to say every time you lie and create a paper trail, you are jeopardizing your future.  While these seem like minor issues, they can completely derail naturalization applications because good moral character is a must and this behavior documents a person with very poor moral character.

Consequences of reporting real income to USCIS

Johnny writes, "I have been working illegally for a friend for 11 months and she has been paying me either in cash or personal checks, but mostly I have been getting paid through online transfers. I live in public housing and have not reported this income because it will raise our rent. I am currently filling out the I-765w worksheet and am unsure about what to put for income. My mom says to put zero and only disclose that I have an unpaid internship and she pays all my expenses. She is afraid that if I write an income, public housing authorities will find out and our rent will go up and she will get in trouble for not reporting this income earlier. However, I'm afraid that USCIS will look into my bank account and see the weekly money transfers between my friend's account and mine. My friend said that if I close my account before I submit my application to USCIS they will not be able to trace the payments but I'm not sure about that. I was thinking about reporting only the bank transfers/check deposits as income since those are traceable and if USCIS asks for an explanation, I would tell them I design/construct festival costumes for my friend and the money is payment for costumes I make. I don't think that would be considered illegal work and I do sew costumes and plan to start an official costume design line. Or I could report the traceable income and explain the work I do for my friend. What should I do? Not report the income at all, say my mom pays for everything, and close my bank account; or report only the traceable income?"

As you probably might have guessed, what you are planning to (and/or already are committing) do is commit fraud (it is also clear that your employer too is breaking United States laws and can be prosecuted for deliberately hiring an illegal alien and not reporting income to the IRS and SSA), not just with public housing agency but also the USCIS (you have not indicated if your mother is a legal resident and eligible for public housing but in case she isn't, she too might be engaging in criminal actions that can jeopardize her and your chances of legalizing).  I cannot advise you to do so and in any case it is naive for you and your mother to think that you will get away with it (your plans to hide the money trail are not right and clearly illegal).  In my opinion, you should honestly report all the facts because lying on your application is perjury, yet another crime and something that could further jeopardize your situation.  A lot of people have honestly reported their incomes on I-765WS and they have been approved and if you want to get DACA approved your best option is to be 100% honest, and if that means paying higher rent, it would be worth it.  After all, you already have the income.  In any case, you need to consult this with an attorney because there are so many illegal activities going on here.

Overseas travel after DACA for personal reasons

Freddy writes, "I have been approved for DACA and have everything done with this process but I need to go to my native country for personal reasons.  Is there any way I can go and come back?  I know that Form I-131 for advanced parole is only for emergencies but I might need multiple trips and must definitely go.  What do you suggest?"

As I have been repeatedly writing the advanced parole exists for the purpose of traveling overseas and if all goes well, you should be able to get into the US without any problem.  You haven't indicated what is it that you need to do in your native country because you will really need to build a very strong humanitarian case in order to be approved first for advanced parole and generally speaking it is hard to build a humanitarian case for multiple trips.  So for instance, one could argue that you need to say goodbye to a dying parent or sibling but that does not justify multiple trips and USCIS is very reluctant to approve such petitions for illegal immigrants.  Plus, you better have solid evidence of this individual being seriously ill in order to not get into trouble.  If you have been able to live all these years without traveling overseas, unless it is something that is so important that you are willing to risk your life in the US, I would not recommend it.  In any case, I strongly suggest that you discuss this with an attorney because they can guide you along better based on your situation.

What will happen to illegal immigrants stealing identities?

The use of Social Security numbers that do not belong to illegal immigrants is so widespread that many actually have more than one.  Some go as far as to steal the identity of an American citizen or legal resident (it is estimated that as many as 10 million identities are stolen each year, mostly by undocumented aliens).  Fortunately for the undocumented aliens, most of the real owners of these SSN do not find out or not find out right away or it takes some time before the legal process kicks in.  It is important to clarify right away that any abuse of SS# is a crime (to state it in simple terms, using a number that was not assigned to you by the Social Security Administration is a crime and using that number to work is violation of many additional laws).  Even using a completely made up number can put you in trouble later on because if it is assigned to a legal individual, you have broken the law.

Breaking the law related to SSN has consequences:   Simply because most people are never caught or prosecuted (sadly for you, the money goes into the Social Security trust fund that will be eventually distributed only to those legally entitled to receive it), it does not mean that it is okay to do it or that some day you may not get into trouble with the law (what is interesting is that rightful owners or a number are not notified by the SSA that someone is using their number and it is up to them to find that out the hard way and act on it).  Similarly, just because USCIS is not asking DREAMers applying for DACA if they have abused Social Security numbers, it does not mean that they are immune from prosecution at a later time or that they may not be denied an immigration benefit in the future (using someone's SS# is a felony and generally disqualifies an individual from any immigrant benefit). 

Illegal immigrant using false SSN jailed and deported:   That is why I wanted to highlight the case of Candida Gutierrez whose identity was stolen by Mexican national Benita Cardona-Gonzalez who is in the United States illegally.  Like many other unauthorized aliens, she started living a comfortable life as Ms. Gutierrez getting mortgage, credit cards, driver's license, etc.  When the real Ms. Gutierrez started to suffer the consequences of someone abusing her credit history, Benita Cardona-Gonzalez was charged and not only will she spend a year and half in jail she will also be deported to Mexico.  The lighter sentence was given because Benita Cardona-Gonzalez pleaded guilty and struck a deal with the prosecutors.  The evidence against her was so overwhelming that she had no choice.

How does the Government collect evidence on using fake papers?   The fact to remember is that if you have been doing the same, you are accumulating enormous evidence that can and will be used against you.  For example, if you use a stolen SSN to find employment even at a tiny store and fill a forms like I-9, within a matter of days that information is populated in databases of IRS and the treasury department of the state in which your employer is based.  It is also shared with unemployment division in the state and depending on where you are, it can be shared with other databases.  While your employer may not use eVerify for whatever reason, when the IRS detects a mismatch between the name and the number (as many 9 million mismatches happen each year mostly due to the undocumented immigrants using numbers that do not belong to them), it notifies the DHS.  By filing your taxes with the false number, you keep adding to the evidence in the Federal and state records.  Opening bank and credit accounts, joining a school/university, applying for auto loans, etc. are other activities that result in accumulation of solid evidence of fraud.

Air travel by DREAMers after DACA approval

Matt writes, "I got approved for Deferred Action. I also got my social security number, employment card, and driver's license. I am wondering if I can travel on a plane within the United States with these documents. If yes, how? Do I need a passport? What else do I need?"

What happens at the airport when going through security?   Actually, all you need is a driver's license (this is true for anyone in the United States regardless of immigration status, unless you carry one of those licenses that clearly indicate 'not valid for identification' or similar language, that allows people who are able to drive with it but it cannot be used as an ID).  If you are going to check in at an airline counter, that is all you need to show.  If you check in at home and have no bags to check (in case you do, you will simply show your ID and boarding pass to drop off your bags at a separate counter in the checkin area), just go directly to the security line (which is the same for all passengers, including international travelers) where an officer will check your boarding pass and ID (the United States Transportation Security Administration or TSA accepts a large range of documents as acceptable identification but for anyone with a valid driver's license there is no need for anything else, while the foreigners must present a valid passport).  No one should ask you about your legal status because it is not their business.  However, they are within their rights to ask you all sorts of questions like where you are going, how many days, for what purpose, etc. but chances are that they will not ask anything at all as long as the name on your license is the same as your boarding pass and you do not raise any suspicion because of your unusual behavior. 

Interaction with TSA:   Now make sure that you do not have anything unusual in your carryon items (do not exceed the weight limit, no weapons of any kind, only the allowed amounts of liquids; etc.), so that you do not get stopped for extra screening.  Also make sure that you have nothing in your pockets that can trigger the Xray machine and you will be on your way.  Now to be absolutely sure that you are okay, you can keep your passport and EAD card in your carry-on bag, but unless you get stopped for extra screening and an officer insists on knowing more about you, there will be no need to show it.  The TSA focuses on flight security and immigration status is not their responsibility (actually, the officer who will check your documents is not equipped with any computers or databases; he will merely make a visual inspection of the documents).  Needless to say that if you do have to step aside for additional screening -- something that is not going to happen unless you are transporting guns or drugs in your bags or doing something really stupid -- trust me, the officer checking your boarding pass and ID will take one casual look at your face to make sure that the faces match and you will be waved off.  If you packed smartly and take off all metal objects from your body, the machine will probably clear you as well, and you will be on your way without a hitch.  In fact I expect that it will be so uneventful that you would even wonder why you bothered to even ask someone.