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DACA: The Biggest Mistake People Who Don't Apply for DACA Make

 I meet a lot of people who I know qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but who have not applied for that status who all made the same mistake. 

When President Obama first gave DACA, the focus in the media was on college and high school kids who could apply for the program. You remember the pictures. Students in their graduation gowns lining up to fill out DACA applications. This created the false impression that DACA was only for teenagers and only for graduates or students still in school.

What many immigrants who were eligible for the program did not understand is that they could make themselves eligible for DACA by enrolling in school. Let me give an example of someone I helped to apply who did not know she was eligible.

Maria was a 26 year old Salvadoran undocumented immigrant living in Hempstead. She had only gone to school up to the ninth grade in El Salvador and had come to the U.S. when she was fourteen. She never attended school here. She had two children and she worked part-time watching other people's children. She did not fit the image of the student in the cap and gown applying for DACA that she saw on TV, so she did not apply.

When I met Maria at a church, I told her that if she enrolled in a high school equivilency program she could become eligible for DACA. She went to her local high school to sign up. Because her English was not so good, she was placed in an ESL program for people who want an equivlence diploma. This was enough to make her eligible to apply for DACA. 

Here are the educational requirements for DACA according to the National Immigration Law Center.

To meet the “currently in school” requirement, you must be enrolled in:

1. a public, private, or charter elementary school, junior high or middle school, high school, secondary school, alternative program, or homeschool program that meets state requirements;
2. an education, literacy, or career-training program (including vocational training) that has a purpose of improving literacy, mathematics, or English or is designed to lead to placement in postsecondary education, job training, or employment, and where you are working toward such placement; or
3. an education program assisting students either in obtaining a regular high school diploma or its recognized equivalent under state law (including a certificate of completion, certificate of attendance, or alternate award), or in passing a GED exam or other equivalent state-authorized exam.



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