What are the implications of the Surpreme Court's DACA decision?

Since the election of President Donald Trump and Republicans takeover of the Senate, the future of DACA has been in jeopardy.  After the lawsuit against DACA reached the US Supreme Court, all its opponents expected that the Trump Administration will prevail, but they did not.  Here is what it means for you?

  1. The decision does not mean that DACA is constitutional or that it cannot be declared unconstitutional if another case makes it to the Court.  All it does is to say that the procedure used to shut it down by against the law.
  2. It is not known what President Trump would do.  While unlikely, he may try to shut it down using other measures.
  3. In the meantime, if you are a DACA approved DREAMer you can continue to live without fear of being deported.
  4. It is not clear if new applications will be allowed or if those whose work permits have expired will be allowed to apply again/renew.  It is also not clear if advanced parole provision will be revived.  Stay tuned for updates on those.
In the meantime, go on with your life, follow the law, and if there are other ways to gain permanent residency, explore those options.  The decision does not make DACA permanent nor does it create any path to legalization, but at least for the short term, it keeps the program in its current form.

DREAMers banned from HEERF

While DREAMers are eligible for stimulus checks (exception includes those who have someone in their household using an ITIN) and unemployment insurance in some states, it should not be forgotten that they really are not present in the country legally -- DACA merely defers their deportation to a date in the future.

Accordingly in the 2020 CARES Act, which established the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), the money could be used to help students in need due to disruption by coronavirus pandemic.  All illegal immigrant students, including DREAMers with or without DACA status, are banned from receiving this aid.  If you are not able to file FAFSA, you are not eligible.

Does ICE have access to information of DACA approved DREAMers?

Way back in 2012 I had pointed out the worst case scenario for applying for DACA and mentioned that information that you will submit in order to be approved may be used against you.  While there was/is a promise that the information submitted in applications for DACA will not be automatically shared with ICE, I had warned that once you submit any information to any government (not just the US), you really have no control over it.

A recent report now confirms that while it takes a few steps to pull up detailed information on any DREAMer has ever applied for DACA, it is possible to do so.  And I am not surprised.  DREAMers have applied for deferment of their deportation, a work permit, and Social Security numbers have had to provide detailed information about them, their families, and have been fingerprinted/ photographed.  It would be naive to think that, if the authorities wish to use this information, they would hesitate to do so.

It is important to remember that every time you apply for a benefit (driver's license, file taxes, collect stimulus check, claim earned income tax credit, apply for food stamps, etc.) you are submitting a lot of information to the authorities, and while this information sits in multiple databases run by different agencies, it is not uncommon to see data sharing between different agencies.  So, indeed it is true that the IRS database does not have precise details on your immigration status and your USCIS file does not have precise information on your tax documents, officials can request access to these databases.  For example, the department of motor vehicles can now access federal databases to check if someone is a citizen or in the country legally.

In other words, be aware that the benefits of being legal and having the right to work, also mean that you cannot hide.  I have heard from DREAMers who are planning to change address if the Supreme Court declares DACA as unconstitutional, just remember that you will probably file a change of address request with the Post Office, change it on your license/registration, etc.  The government can easily access these databases, and can order private organizations like banks/credit card companies/cell phone providers to hand over information about you.  And finally, most people these days share way too much information about them on social media -- so it should not take authorities too long to track you down.

Can DREAMers get pandemic uneployment insurance?

In addition to DACA approved DREAMers receiving CARES Act stimulus checks of $1,200, they may also be eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits under the same law.  Here is what you need to know:
  •  It all depends on the state that you live in.  California is the most generous but Republican-controlled states are the least. 
  •  Since CARES Act covers many non-traditional workers (e.g. contract workers, self-employed, gig economy workers, etc.), the rules are slightly different, though, in general UI benefits are limited to citizens and other long-term residents.  In other words, check with your state's UI office.  If the information is provided on the website, you will know if you are covered; if not, do not hesitate to call to ask if you are eligible.
  •  The other harmless thing to do is to simply apply; the worst that can happen is that your claim will be denied.  

Will DACA approved dreamers get coronovirus stiumuls checks?

You must have heard of the $1,200 per person payment being sent out to everyone, and yes, it is indeed true that under the provisions of The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), most people with some limitations on those who make a lot of money, will receive a $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

Accordingly, DACA approved DREAMers will also receive these payments as long as they meet the income qualification (adjusted gross income under $75,000, $112,500 for head of household and $150,000 married -- remember that this is the income after adjustments and not your actual income).  Here are a few things to note:

  • If your DACA status is expired but you have continued to file your taxes for 2018, you should still receive it.  Even though, you are now technically not legally present, the IRS does not know that, and will merely rely on the fact that you have a valid Social Security number and have filed taxes (the information is needed in order to determine the amount and how to send it). 
  • As has been announced, it is not necessary to file the 2019 taxes to receive the stimulus payment.
  • The money will be sent through a direct deposit to the bank that you may have provided when you filed your taxes.  If you instead asked for a paper check for a refund in the past, then, you will get a paper check, though, it might take longer.
  • Unfortunately, if you are married to someone (or have children) who is listed on your tax return but does not have a valid SSN (meaning your spouse used an ITIN for taxes), no one will get the payment.
  • There is no paperwork to be done and the payment will not count against you in any way in the future; just use the money as you want.