DACA Protest. Photo by Jackie Ramírez

By Ricardo Diaz

On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides a work permit and protection against deportation to some immigrants whose parents brought them to the United States without permission.

Since its start in 2012, DACA has benefitted about 800,000 people, according to data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The announcement leaves DACA beneficiaries uncertain about their futures, along with many undocumented youth who were eligible for DACA but didn’t apply. That’s why it’s important to know what alternatives to DACA—paths to lawful permanent residency and citizenship–are available.

According to USCIS, these are some of the ways in which an immigrant can gain lawful permanent residency:

SIJS – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

The Immigration Act of 1990 established SIJS as a path to legal residency for certain unmarried children under the age of 21.

A child is eligible for SIJS if a state court finds that reunification with one or both of the child’s parents is not possible due to abandonment, abuse, neglect or a similar reason under state law; that it is not in the child’s best interests to return to his or her home country; and that the immigrant child is a dependent of the court or has been legally placed with a state agency, a private agency or an individual.

Once a state court has made these findings, an immigrant child may file a petition for classification as a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ). An immigrant child who is granted SIJ may then apply for lawful permanent residency status.

U Nonimmigrant Status

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 established U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa) as a path to lawful permanent residency, for immigrant victims of serious crimes, regardless of age.

To qualify for a U Visa, an immigrant must have been the victim of a serious crime that occurred within the United States or that violated U.S. law; have suffered substantial physical or mental harm as a result of it; possess information about the crime; have been–or be likely to be–helpful to law enforcement in the investigation of the crime; and be admissible to the United States.

For children under age 16 and people with a disability, a parent, guardian or friend can instead possess information about the crime and help in the investigation. A waiver is available to those who are not admissible.

Other Paths

In addition to SIJS and U Visa, other forms of relief are available. Victims of human trafficking, for example, may be eligible for T Visa. Those who have been abused by their U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse, parent or child may be eligible for a green card under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In addition, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents may petition for immigrant visas for certain family members, both in and outside the United States.

To find out if you might qualify for permanent residency through one of these options, consult an immigration attorney or accredited representative. Many non-profit organizations in Los Angeles offer low-cost or free services.

Here are some organizations that can help:

Public Counsel

610 S. Ardmore Ave.

(213) 385-2977

Central American Resource Center (CARECEN-LA)

2845 W. 7th St.

(213) 385-7800

Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice

5301 Whittier Blvd

(323) 980-3500

Catholic Charities

1530 W. 9th St.


Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project

(213) 251-3505

LA County Bar Association

300 N. Los Angeles St., Room 3107

(213) 485-1872

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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