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By Kaitlyn Francis
Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that prevents some residents brought to the United States as children from being deported, is being restored to its former, Obama-era policies after a ruling on Dec. 4 that overturned the Trump administration’s attempt to limit and eventually end the program.

DACA is a program started in 2012 by the Obama administration to protect those who came to the United States before age 16 from being deported.

When granted DACA status, recipients are given a two-year work permit that they continually renew.

To be eligible for DACA, someone must be born after June 15, 1981; have come to the United States before turning 16; physically present in the country on June 15, 2012, and when applying for DACA; have had no lawful status on June 15, 2012; lived in the United States from June 15, 2007, until the present; meet certain educational requirements; and have not been convicted of certain crimes.

U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the Department of Homeland Security to post an announcement to accept first-time applicants again and for two-year work permits.

The Maryland Dream Act allows for DACA students who receive a high school diploma or GED in the state to pay in-state tuition to Maryland universities.

In September 2017, the Trump administration stopped new applicants from applying to DACA, only allowing renewals.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services also announced they will be reinstating applications for an international travel permit called advance parole, which allows DACA recipients to leave the country and still return to the United States.

Amy Rivera, president of University of Maryland’s Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, said PLUMAS has a dream fund for DACA recipients to help pay for legal fees.

PLUMAS works alongside the Undocumented Student Program at the University of Maryland, attends protests and puts on a dream gala every year to raise money.

A portion of members in PLUMAS are DACA recipients and Rivera said the rulings come as a big relief for a lot of students.

Rivera said it is important to keep a critical eye on the incoming administration’s actions to help DACA students as there is much more to be done, such as taking away renewal fees and creating a gateway to citizenship for recipients.

“I know a lot of members were definitely worried about (the Trump Administration’s agenda) because when you are undocumented in the U.S., you are always in a type of limbo,” said Rivera. “You never know when the authorities in this country are going to decide whether you can stay in this place that you call your home or if you have to be forced back to a land you don’t know much.”

As of March, Maryland had 7,870 active DACA recipients. However, 38% of immigrants eligible for DACA had applied as of 2019 in Maryland, according to the American Immigration Council.

“It is a wonderful ruling because there are a lot of kids in Maryland and in other states that have been in limbo and have been without protection because of what Trump did with the deferred action program,” said Maryland Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel. “So this at least gives them some hope. And it’s wonderful because a lot of them need to work. These are very tough times that we’re living, really unprecedented times with COVID.”

Immigration attorney Paola Vibriesca, a partner at Ninan + Vibriesca Law in Greenbelt, Maryland, has been in the process of calling back clients, who previously came to her office meeting every requirement except for the fact that they would be first-time applicants, with the good news that they can start the application process immediately.

“Hopefully it’s the beginning,” Vibriesca said. “What we’re hoping, when Biden comes into office, is something more permanent or people who know they will be able to stay here with permanent status, not just something that they have to renew every year.”

Pena-Melnyk said DACA recipients working in Maryland are given an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number linked to the IRS to pay taxes, and contributed over $139 million in taxes last year to the state.

Those without valid U.S. Citizenship and Immigration documentation in Maryland are eligible for a “federally non-compliant” driver’s license or identification card.

Pena-Melnyk said that Maryland is especially humane and inclusive compared to other states and has a lot of hope for Biden’s presidency to do the same.

The incoming administration said they will end Trump’s “detrimental” asylum policies, reverse policies that separate parents and their children at the border and increase humanitarian resources at the border in the new president’s first 100 days.