Above: (L to R) Tiffany Panlilio, legal advocate with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, Shiu-Ming Cheer, senior staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, Reva Gupta, senior policy advisor for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Martha Flores, chief of staff for USCIS LA District (Photo credit: Albert Dai, EDI Media)
LOS ANGELES -- DACA still exists, and many Asian immigrants are eligible to apply.
That was the central message of a recent media roundtable in Los Angeles that brought together reporters from 15 Asian American media outlets with DACA recipients, immigration experts, and representatives of USCIS and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI).
One month after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 4-4 split decision on two immigration relief programs, immigration experts told reporters that the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, enacted in 2012, continues to be available.
The program allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and meet certain requirements to get two-year, renewable protection from deportation and access to a work permit and social security number.
“DACA is still in place. The more people apply, the more successful the program will be,” Shiu-Ming Cheer, senior staff attorney of the National Immigration Law Center, told reporters at the roundtable, which was organized by New America Media in collaboration with Ready California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA and WHIAAPI.
Between 130,000 and 150,000 Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants in the United States may be eligible to request DACA, according to estimates from Migration Policy Institute and USCIS.
Yet only 13,600 (about one in 10) eligible applicants from Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have requested DACA so far.
“We’ve been trying to grapple with why these numbers are so low,” said Reva Gupta, senior policy advisor for WHIAAPI.
Many Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants may not know they are eligible to apply, Gupta said. “It’s critical that we get accurate information to the community about DACA.”
In Los Angeles County alone, approximately 16,000 individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent could be eligible. The largest eligible Asian populations in LA County come from the Korean (6,000), Indian (1,000), Filipino (3,000), and Chinese (3,000) communities.
DACA is “one of the president’s priorities for immigration,” said Gupta, who described its impact on recipients as “life-changing.”
Studies have shown that DACA leads to a substantial increase in income. For example,
a national survey of DACA recipients in 2015 found that DACA led to an average 45 percent increase in income. The survey was conducted by NILC, the Center for American Progress, and Tom Wong of UC San Diego.
Michelle Yoon, a DACA recipient born in Argentina to a Korean family, said getting DACA allowed her to buy her first car, build credit and travel throughout the country. (She plans to celebrate her 25th birthday in Alaska.)
“Before DACA, I had uncertainty about what I could do with my college degree and life after college,” said Yoon. After getting DACA, she said, “I could plan ahead and live without fear.”
“If you asked me eight years ago if I thought undocumented people could be lawyers or doctors, I would have said no,” said Anthony Ng, a DACA recipient from the Philippines. “But I’ve seen my friends pursue their lifelong dreams,” he said.
Martha Flores, chief of staff of the Los Angeles field office of USCIS, told reporters that the media was critical in getting information from the government to the communities they serve. She encouraged community members to seek out information from the USCIS website, available in Asian languages, and make sure they go to a qualified services provider.
To request DACA, an individual must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; have come to the United States before their 16th birthday; have lived here continuously since June 27, 2007; have no lawful status on June 15, 2012; not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three misdemeanors, or pose a threat to public safety; and meet the educational requirements. These include either being currently enrolled in school, graduated from high school, received a GED certificate or having been honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard or Armed Forces.
To find out of you qualify for DACA or another form of immigration relief, call Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA at (888) 349-9695 or NILC at (213) 639-3900. To learn more about DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca.
Ready California is a collaborative campaign supporting California organizations to ensure that eligible undocumented Californians can access immigration relief. For more information, go to ready-california.org.