27-year-old Azucena Macias was only 1 when she and her family crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into California. Her parents, however, were eventually deported in 2005, forcing Azucena and her siblings to live under the care of their older sister. Although Azucena would reunite with her mother 10 years later, it was under unfortunate circumstances—her mother had developed stage 2 breast cancer. Her mother’s illness, however, would also allow Azucena to apply for a little-used immigration rule, one that would fast track her way to permanent legal resident status, and eventually, full citizenship.
Understanding DACA and Advance Parole
The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) contains a little-known provision called Advance Parole, which allows undocumented immigrants to re-enter the U.S. and erase records of their unlawful entry, as well as all penalties associated with it.
DACA, an immigration reprieve program designed to help undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children, has been criticized for supposedly creating shortcuts to citizenship. Likewise, the concept of advance parole has also been called a “cheater’s shortcut.”
Advocates, however, say the process is neither as simple nor easy as it sounds.
Still, advance parole eliminates any uncertainty about the fate of DACA once President Obama steps down from office, especially for those who applied for the provision and qualify for legal permanent resident status.
DACA is open to undocumented immigrants born after June 1981, who first entered the country below the age of 16.
How It Works
To understand how Azucena obtained her green card, it’s necessary to delve into the finer aspects of advance parole.
Under the rules of DACA, Azucena was granted a 2-year work permit in 2013, which also protected her—albeit temporarily—from removal by an immigration court. DACA documentation, however, is not the same as legal immigration status. Any immigrant with DACA documentation can apply for advance parole. Once granted, advance parolees can travel to any country abroad, but under specific circumstances, such as:
- Humanitarian purposes
- Educational purposes
- Work purposes
Upon reentering the country and passing through customs, all record of their unlawful status are automatically erased. At this point, immigrants who applied for advance parole can then proceed to filing the necessary paperwork for permanent residence under sponsorship. After 3 to 5 years, they can then apply for U.S. citizenship.
Interestingly enough, advance parole isn’t a new provision; neither is it specific to DACA, as individuals with pending immigration applications can also apply. The controversy stems from how DACA makes it easy for immigrants with spouses or parents who are U.S. citizens to apply for full citizenship through a sponsorship.
Learn more about DACA and advance parole, and how you or a loved one can apply by sitting down for a consultation with Lyttle Law Firm. Contact us at (512) 215.5225 for a discussion on how we can help you with your immigration goals.