Are the people (“Dreamers”) who did not apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program really afraid or just lazy?

Today, February 6, 2018, it is being reported by many news outlets that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly basically said that many of the people who could have signed up for DACA may have been too afraid to apply or were too lazy to get off their asses to apply. Mr. Kelly said that “others” would say they were too afraid or too lazy. It is unclear whether Mr. Kelly was too afraid to say if he personally held those same opinions or not, but his statement implies he does think they are afraid or lazy as if those are character flaws to which US citizens are immune.

I believe our lawmakers and the public should keep in mind there are different and valid reasons for a person not to apply. Keeping an open mind would be more useful when trying to craft immigration law changes instead of believing things that are not facts.

As a reminder, three of the several requirements for DACA are that a person came to the United States before age 16, has continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, and was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. These restrictions to the program limited the amount of people who could apply. If a parent brought a child to the United States as a 16 or 17-year-old, then that child was out of luck for DACA purposes.

Children under the age of 15 are not allowed to apply for DACA, so that means there are still 11 to 14-year-old children who arrived from 2004 to 2007 who meet all of the other requirements but are not able to apply for being too young. There are others who would have met all the requirements except they were brought to the US before June 15, 1981 and were too old to apply.

Not all the Dreamers I have personally advised decided to apply for DACA. Sometimes the person did not have the government filing fees of $500 to pay and they did not have anyone from whom they could borrow it. Opening a bank account without a social security number is near impossible so saving is difficult. Working for decent wages without government authorization is  difficult to do especially as a minor or as a young adult, who was not allowed to go to school after high school due to their immigration status.

Sometimes Dreamers listened to the fear of others instead of their own emotions. Family members of the Dreamer could be at risk of deportation because the Dreamer was asked to provide information about family members who were not DACA-eligible.

Some Dreamers have married US citizens or permanent residents and for them it is just easier for the Dreamer to stay hidden under the financial support of the citizen than risk separation from their loved one. Public perception is that marrying a US citizen or birthing a US citizen child allows a foreign national to remain in the US and that is frequently not true, especially for people who came to the US involuntarily. Current law has very few exceptions for a person to remain in the US in that situation.

I would say a big reason for many not applying was not fear as much as it was a lack of trust in the government. Why go through the trouble when the government will change its mind? They did not trust that their family members would not be deported. They did not trust the DACA program would remain in place or that Congress would change the law to help those who came to the US involuntarily.

Many of the Dreamers who did not apply for DACA made a calculated decision after having investigated their options. Whether we say their decisions were trust-based or fear-based does not change the fact that the government wants to deport them whether they applied for DACA or not. Most of the Dreamers came to the US involuntarily and Mr. Kelly implies he thinks they are afraid or lazy at the same time the presidential administration is trying to deport them.

So no, Dreamers are not unnecessarily fearful or lazy, as if those are ingrained character flaws. Remember, it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you.

If you have any questions regarding immigration, please feel free to call me, immigration attorney Shawn Mesa at (813) 679-5780.

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on this information is taken at your own risk.

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