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DACA opens up new options for immigrants

Some Florida immigrants who have not received residency status and fear driving without a license or being discovered by immigration officials have hope through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This federal program allows some individuals to receive a work permit, eligibility for a driver's license and a two-year exemption from potential deportation. The fee for the application is $465, which has deterred some potential applicants, and the time that it takes to process the applications varies.

The program was announced on June 15, 2012. The Department of Homeland Security started accepting applications on Aug. 15, 2012, and individuals who came into the United States before they turned 16, were younger than 31 on June 15, 2012, and who have lived in the country continuously since June 15, 2007, are eligible to apply for the program. As of August 2013, approximately 567,000 individuals had been approved for DACA. Florida has had the fifth highest number of applicants in the country. Statistically speaking, 74.9 percent of applicants were born in Mexico, and another four percent are from El Salvador, which is the second most frequent country of origin. About 120,000 applications were filed in October 2012. However, applicants decreased to less than 20,000 in June 2013.

One difficult aspect of the application process is to prove continuous residence since June 15, 2007. This is particularly difficult for individuals who are no longer in school. Some individuals turn in pay stubs from their parents, and one individual is reported to have brought in telephone records. Others have supplied evidence through bank transactions. The program has allowed new options for residents, including opening bank accounts, credit cards and employment opportunities.

Individuals who qualify for DACA may decide to consult with an immigration attorney before beginning the application process. Through such a course of action, an individual may be able to receive legal advice about what evidence should be provided for proof of residency.

Source: The Ledger, "Program Gives Exemption to Noncitizen Residents", Gary White, February 03, 2014

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