Some more details on the "deferred action" amnesty, or the DREAM Scheme, were revealed by USCIS on Friday, August 3.
This is the program that will offer deferred action on deportation to aliens who came to the United States illegally before the age of 16, who have been here five years, who are still here, and who have met some educational or military qualifications. About one million applications are expected.
- The (bargain rate) fee set for the program is $465.
- To further soften the terminology used in this program, it has become the "Childhood Arrivals" program.
- To further ease eligibility, to meet the education requirement, one must only be in school on the date of filing the application, not on June 15, when the program was announced by DHS Secretary Napolitano. More on this below.
- Interviews with applicants will be the exception (when fraud it suspected), not the rule, and most decisions will be made on the basis of the submitted applications.
- On the other hand, a DUI will bar an alien from this amnesty, and there will be no appeals, reviews, or reconsiderations of application denials. (My suspicion: there will be few denials and these will be in open-and-shut cases.)
USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, in both a brief press teleconference, and in a slightly longer "stakeholders" meeting, announced a few additional details of the program, and then answered a handful of questions (not very searching) both from the press and from immigration attorneys. The press conference, which also featured some background-only comments from an unidentified "senior official", lasted less than half an hour and the stakeholders meeting less than 40 minutes. I was surprised that the "stakeholders" meeting was cut short; an earlier one a few weeks ago was rather longer.
Generally, the outline of the amnesty as previously announced remained unchanged. More information will be ready on August 15 on the agency's website, and applications will begin to be received on that day.
The whole thing smacks of a rushed program. There will be, for instance, a form to be completed, but Mayorkas did not cite its number, as he so often does regarding the numbers of other forms. Further, the form will still be in clearance with the Office of Management and Budget on the day it starts to be used. (That's a bit of inside baseball to be sure, but a telling one in Washington.)
The fee situation is interesting and worrisome, as my colleague Jessica Vaughan outlined in an earlier blog. There will be three forms to be completed: the deferred action document, the employment authorization card request, and the fingerprint (biometric) card. Routinely there would be a stiff fee for the first document, but not in this case. The other two are subject to fees totaling $465. As Ms. Vaughan suggested, it is highly likely that the $465 will not cover the cost of all the extra work.
In most USCIS situations, there is a chance for a fee waiver, and sometimes a high percentage of the applications come with such waivers (they are rarely denied). In this process, however, there are to be no waivers, but there can be exceptions. The latter, however, are to be granted only infrequently and in cases of unusual need, such as being homeless, in foster care with a family that has less than 150 percent of the poverty income, or being deeply in medical debt. But it also extends to everyone younger than 18.
If aliens want exceptions, they must secure them before filing the rest of the papers; routinely, when a waiver is involved, it is submitted at the same time as the main application.
I found the educational requirement — that one must be enrolled in school on the day of application — troublesome. It means that an illegal alien, who may never have spent a day in school in his life, either in his own nation or here, meets the educational qualification by simply enrolling (presumably in a full-time course) on the day of application.
No one listening in at either session raised that problem, or for that matter made any other reference to potential fraud in the program.
The requirements, as I heard them listed, to support proof of school enrollment or graduation were multitudinous — you had to have this, that, or the other, but never a hard specific like a letter on school stationery indicating the length of attendance at that institution or a notarized copy of a diploma. There probably will be a lot of fraud in this process, and USCIS seems not to be taking many precautions to protect against it.
Mayorkas also repeated the odd description of the military requirement (which can be used instead of education); an otherwise eligible illegal alien can qualify for deferred action if he or she is an honorably discharged veteran of "the Coast Guard or of the Armed Services", a description that could only be uttered by an employee of DHS, which is the mother agency to that force.