SALINAS, Calif. (KION) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will start accepting first-time Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications again after an order from a federal judge Friday.
The program's reinstatement also means one year employment and grants of deferred action under DACA will be extended to two years.
DACA was established in 2012 through an executive order by then president, Barack Obama. It allows certain undocumented immigrant teenagers and young adults, who came to the U.S. as children, to defer deportation for two years or longer, if renewed.
The latest decision paves the way for an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants who could be eligible to apply for the program, including people like Cabrillo College student Anahi Martinez. She came to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico at a young age.
“Without DACA, you can’t do pretty much anything. I can’t work, because I don’t have the working permit so that slows me down in helping my family,” Martinez said. “That would open so many doors for me to apply for jobs, to help others as well.”
She’s studying social work, and told KION her past motivates her to want to help other families. She said she came from a family that didn’t receive a lot of help or have much food on the table.
“If I could come out of this, I could also help them,” Martinez said.
Attorney Alexander Carl who's partner at an immigration law firm, called Bolour/Carl Immigration Group, has a handful of DACA recipients who have been waiting to apply as well. The group has offices in Salinas, Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
“It’s been battling for about a few years but now with this recent order we need to move quickly and new applications are being accepted so we’re trying to stay on top of it and get these applications in as quickly as possible just incase something does change in the next couple months,” Carl said.
But it has been a bumpy road over the past few years for DACA recipients and those waiting to apply; the Trump administration tried to end the program in 2017.
The Supreme Court blocked the attempts in June of this year, but the administration stopped accepting new applications and limited renewals.
More than 640,000 people in the U.S. are currently DACA recipients. They have to meet certain age and criminal history requirements to be eligible.
“They don’t need to be worried about being removed and they are able to live and work here legally,” Carl said. “They’re doctors, lawyers, engineers, programmers, you name it.”
Now that the program has been restored, local immigrant advocacy groups anticipate more people will apply for the program in the coming months.