The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has helped many young people in Illinois live and work in the U.S. without facing possible deportation and removal proceedings. Once an immigrant has received DACA status, they must renew it every two years. When people apply to renew DACA or file an initial application, one thing that could result in a denial is having a criminal conviction. Immigrants in such a position might be able to increase the chances that their applications will be approved by petitioning the courts for expungements.
What is an expungement?
In Illinois, some people with certain types of criminal records are eligible to petition the court for an expungement. An expungement removes conviction or arrest from the person’s criminal record. While the government will still be able to see the expunged record when it reviews a DACA application, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services looks at expungements much more favorably than it does convictions.
How expungement works
Certain types of records are immediately eligible for expungement, including arrests that did not result in convictions and dismissed charges. For qualifying misdemeanors and felonies for which people received sentences to probation, they must complete waiting periods after they have completed all of the terms of their probation before they will be eligible for expungement. People who are eligible can file petitions for expungement with the criminal court to help with their immigration cases.
If the court grants the expungement petition, the judge will order the record to be removed from the state’s criminal records and from law enforcement agency records. However, the USCIS will still see that the record was expunged. USCIS assesses the records on a case-by-case basis. Seeing that an arrest or conviction was expunged might make it appear less serious and help to improve the chances the DACA application will be approved.