Young and I are lucky. Although Young doesn’t have legal permanent residency status in the United States, he, and the two of us as a couple, have been able to lead a relatively normal life due to a policy called DACA.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) is a policy that was put in place by an executive order from President Obama in 2012. In short, this policy allows people who immigrated illegally to the U.S. as children and who meet other specific requirements to apply for temporary exemption from deportation and other benefits.
This policy has dramatically changed Young’s life and has a significant impact on us as a couple.
DACA grants temporary exemption from deportation. This adds a degree of stability to our relationship and is of great comfort to both of us. However, if DACA were ever repealed, he would no longer be exempt from deportation.
DACA provides a social security number. It may not always seem like it, but having a social security is a requirement for certain regular activities of life, especially financial ones. Want a credit card? You need to provide a social security number. A bank account? Social security number. A job? Social security number. You get the picture. It is important to note that a social security number is not citizenship. The social security number given to those who qualify for DACA can only be used for specific purposes such as those listed above.
DACA allows Young to work legally in the United States. DACA has granted Young what is called “work authorization” that he renews every two years. If Young were unable to work, not only could this be challenging financially, but also emotionally. We would have to decide if he should try to seek out cash jobs “underground” or if we would rely on my income alone. Keep in mind that this is a reality for undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for DACA.I can only imagine how frustrating it would for both of us to see his potential limited by this, not to mention the power dynamics in the relationship that could arise out of financial dependency.
DACA permits Young to have a driver’s license. The United States is not known for having extensive networks of public transportation, especially not in rural areas. Driving is often necessity of life, whether it is for going to work, running to the grocery store, or visiting family. Having a license allows Young to complete these daily tasks independently.
In short, DACA has allowed Young to begin to come out of the shadows, and it has been an extremely important component of Young’s ability and our ability as a couple to lead a relatively “normal” life.
However, there are a few important things that DACA doesn’t do.
DACA does not make Young a legal permanent resident of the U.S. Although his presence in the U.S. is not currently considered unlawful under DACA, it does not change his actual residency status as an undocumented immigrant. Without DACA, his presence would be considered unlawful.
DACA doesn’t not provide a path to citizenship. Young and I are pursuing his permanent residency and citizenship through our marriage, which is an avenue that exists independent of DACA. (However, this is an option that is not available to everyone who has DACA, as I will explain in later posts). Also, DACA does not offer our application preferential treatment or accelerate its processing.
DACA doesn’t provide long-term security. DACA is not a permanent solution as implied by the name itself, “deferred action”. If something is deferred, it means it is being set aside to be handled later. A change in political leadership could result in DACA being repealed.
Young applied for and was granted DACA before the start of our relationship. In fact, before I started dating Young, I had no idea what DACA was or that it even existed, despite the incredible impact it has had on the lives of thousands of people. Now, it is difficult, and actually frightening, to think of my life without DACA. It is amazing how my perspective has changed now that immigration has become personal.
This post was meant to provide a brief overview of DACA and some of the ways it has impacted Young and me. It is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the policy. To learn more about the details of DACA and about whether or not you would qualify, please visit the USCIS website or consult with a qualified immigration lawyer.