DACA worrying Dreamers living in Winters

Dreamers living in Winters are worried about how DACA will affect them.

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The fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” has been thrown into flux by the Trump Administration.

A local Dreamer spoke with the Express about his experiences with the DACA program. He came to the U.S. with his mother when he was 4 years old, and he is one of the 154,000 DACA recipients whose status is up for renewal before Monday, Mar. 5.

Before the interview began, he asked for complete anonymity. A few months ago, he had legal status, but now his life is in limbo.

“It’s scary,” he says. “Someone from high school who doesn’t like you could call immigration and you could be deported.”

DACA is an Obama-era immigration policy that allowed some immigrants who entered the country illegally as minors to apply for a renewable two-year deferred action permit.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the DACA program would end in March 2018. This came after several Republican Attorneys General threatened to sue over the program.

In an interview conducted by CNBC on Friday, Jan. 26, President Donald Trump said that he had to end the program because the courts were not upholding the executive order. This is misleading, as there was no litigation against DACA during his presidency.

Even before announcing the cancellation of the program, the Trump Administration was making it more difficult for Dreamers to renew their permits. This administration raised the permit cost from $465 to $495.

The Dreamer who spoke with the Express gave a brief rundown of the steps he took to receive legal status when it was an option.

“Honestly, it’s just a really big pain,” he explained. “The system is set up to be clunky and cumbersome.”

In order to receive protection under DACA, applicants filled out an I-821D form and submitted it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. If the form was accepted, the applicant scheduled a biometrics appointment to have their fingerprints chronicled and an ID photo taken. The applicant then had extensive background checks completed and if they were accepted, they received a temporary permit.

DACA status must be renewed every two years. All of the previous steps had to be redone, “even though your fingerprints haven’t changed,” the source joked.

When his DACA permit expired, he was let go from his job. Without legal status, he couldn’t work.

He is frustrated, because like many Dreamers he believed that he would be protected as long as he followed the law. He didn’t choose to cross the border, and California is the only home that he’s ever known.

Now his life is in a legal limbo that he thought he had alleviated.

“They say they want you to succeed and give to the community, but they tie you up and throw you in the lake,” he said.

On Tuesday, Jan. 9, a federal judge in San Francisco put a temporary block on the Trump Administration’s order to end new DACA applications. The local Winters Dreamer was able to apply to renew his DACA status. He is still waiting to see if he is accepted.

Looking to the future, he is optimistic, but he wants to get some answers.

“I just think a sensible pathway to citizenship is what we’ve been working for.”

He says he doesn’t want everyone who immigrated illegally to be granted legal status, because that would be impossible.

“I just hope we get a non-confusing pathway to know where we stand.”

He wants to share his story to show people that members of the Winters community are suffering. The process towards legal status has been difficult for him, and he wants people to understand what the Dreamers are fighting for. He stresses that they aren’t trying to take benefits away from anyone else.

“We pay into these people’s unemployment without being able to take it,” he points out. “We just want to work and go to school.”

Steps to legal immigration

Before beginning, applicants must make sure that they are not already citizens, and determine if they are eligible to apply for citizenship. Dreamers are not eligible to apply for citizenship through this process.

In order to file to become a U.S. citizen, the applicant must be at least 18 years old and be a lawfully admitted permanent resident to the U.S. The filer must also have been a Green Card holder for at least five years, or three if their spouse is a citizen.

They must demonstrate that they have been continuous, permanent residents, as well as physical presence in the U.S. The applicant also must live in the state where they file for at least three months, and have residence within the jurisdiction of the USCIS office where they are applying.

Once all this is determined, the applicant fills out Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. The applicant then schedules a biometrics appointment. USCIS will collect physical data that can help to uniquely identify the applicant. The closest USCIS office to Winters is on Capitol Mall in Sacramento.

The next step is a naturalization interview, where the USCIS will test the applicant’s English language skills and their knowledge of U.S. civics and history.

People over the age of 65 who have been living in the U.S. for at least 20 years (that does not have to be consecutive) can take a slightly easier civics test. If the applicant is over the age of 50 and has been living in the U.S. for at least 20 years, they do not have to pass the English language test.

If the USCIS determines that the applicant has completed all of these tasks and demonstrated good moral character, they take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of people complete this process every year, and gain all the rights of American citizenship.

For more information about obtaining citizenship, visit https://www.uscis.gov/.

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2 comments
  1. Thank you for this article. I would like to have more included about “The next step is a naturalization interview, where the USCIS will test the applicant’s English language skills and their knowledge of U.S. civics and history.”

    I don’t think most people know how arduous the test is. My understanding is that there are 100 questions with 4 possible answers and the applicant has to be able to explain all the permutations. Please write more on this.

    Jesse Loren

  2. Thank you for this article. I would like to have more included about “The next step is a naturalization interview, where the USCIS will test the applicant’s English language skills and their knowledge of U.S. civics and history.”

    I don’t think most people know how arduous the test is. My understanding is that there are 100 questions with 4 possible answers and the applicant has to be able to explain all the permutations. Please write more on this.

    Jesse Loren

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