The Problem With Children | Immigration Law and Children

Dreamer immigrant children find it difficult to document residency for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Today is the first day that those who came to the United States as children from foreign countries (usually brought here by their parents) can apply for relief from deportation.  In June, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the Obama Administration would exercise prosecutorial discretion to defer action on children who meet certain qualifications similar to those proposed in various forms of legislation over the years under the name "DREAM Act."  The problem is that the quality of evidence the Department will require to prove these qualifications will be onerous for many children if only because they are children. 

 

Here is an example.  One of the qualifications an applicant must prove is that they came to the United States before they were 16 years old and that since June of 2007, they have maintained a continual residence in the United States.  Information provided by the Department of Homeland Security about this program notes that these qualifications cannot be proved by affidavit alone.  

That is, mom cannot simply swear that her baby was in fact here at these relevant times.  The Department notes that proving when you were in the US and proving a continual residence can often be shown using documents like utility bills or other correspondence.  The problem is, most children do not have utility bills or other correspondence sent to them in their names.  Bills are sent to an adult in the household, which would be some proof of the adult's presence, but not the child's.  Of course, if the child was enrolled in school, proof of enrollment and other school related documentation should help.

The Department of Homeland Security has referred to this effort to help so-called "Dreamers" as "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" or DACA.  But in describing the kinds of evidence they will accept under DACA, the Department has treated these cases as if they involve adults.  Admittedly, to take advantage of the program you have to be at least 15 and not older than 31, but evidence of childhood activities is harder for anyone to find than evidence of adult activities if only because adulthood brings with it a plethora of documentation for almost everything we do.  

The bureaucracies we contend with leave a grand paper trail that can easily be used to prove the who, what, when, where and why of our lives.  But that paper trail usually doesn't begin until one turns 18 and becomes a legally responsible adult.

If the Administration really wanted to do right by these children, it would accept as primary evidence for the program's criteria affidavits from family members, neighbors, friends, clerics, teachers and others who are involved in the lives of these children.  Relegating affidavits to secondary evidentiary status and insisting on documents that only adults can acquire requires far more effort, expense and time of all involved.  The Administration should reconsider the use of affidavits under DACA if only to facilitate the more rapid documentation of these innocent children.

David T. Cox is a St Louis Immigration Attorney

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