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'Dreamers' face high hurdles in citizenship quest

Why don't the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients get American citizenship the regular way instead of relying on DACA to rescue them?

— Question asked by several readers

Young people brought to the country illegally as children face many roadblocks if they try to become American citizens.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by President Barrack Obama's administration shields about 800,000 DACA participants from deportation for renewable two-year blocks. DACA also allows them to work and go to school legally in the United States.

In September, President Donald Trump said he wants to phase out the program but will give Congress six months to adopt a replacement.

DACA participants are sometimes called "Dreamers."

"DACA is only the federal government saying you get a work permit and get put on the bottom of the list of priorities for deportation," says Richard Luhan, a Southern Oregon University graduate with DACA status who has worked as a paralegal. "It doesn't give you a pathway to anything else — a visa or residency or citizenship."

One of the most common immigrant pathways is to have a U.S. citizen sponsor a family member. However, many DACA participants don't have a family member with citizenship, according to Business Insider, which published a guide to immigration pathways and hurdles for DACA participants.

Even with a family member who is a citizen, the wait time to enter the U.S. legally can be 10 to 20 years. It can take two to five years if the family member is a spouse, Luhan said.

Adding to the difficulty, an immigrant already in the country illegally would have to return to the country of origin for a consulate interview — and have advance permission to re-enter the United States. Without that permission, the immigrant could be barred from America for 10 years to life, Luhan said.

An employer can sponsor an immigrant, but must certify hiring the immigrant doesn't displace an American worker. The process can take thousands of dollars in application and legal fees, with years of waiting to reach the front of a visa line, Business Insider reports.

Another path into the United States is to be an "individual of extraordinary ability," such as a Nobel Prize winner, according to Business Insider.

People from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. can enter the "diversity lottery." Millions of people each year enter for a chance at 50,000 green cards, Business Insider says.

Immigrant-hopefuls willing to invest $500,000 to $1 million to create or preserve at least 10 jobs for American workers can apply for one of 10,000 visas awarded annually, according to Business Insider.

Luhan said most DACA participants have been in the United States since they were children and feel more like Americans than residents of their former countries.

"We would love to have a process to become citizens," he said.

Some members of Congress have floated proposals to provide legal status for DACA participants.

As part of any deal, the White House wants more immigration agents, border wall construction, limits on asylum-seekers, better verification by companies that they are hiring legal workers and more efforts to send back children who immigrated illegally from Central America. The White House also wants to stop American residents from sponsoring extended family members and limit immigration to their spouses and children, The New York Times reported this month.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.