March 28, 2013 -- For DREAMers, a Facebook check-in is more than just a way to tell friends that you went to a cool party. It can be the difference between staying here or getting deported.
After the Obama administration began Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that allows some undocumented young people to apply for two-year, renewable deportation reprieves, last summer, hundreds of thousands of people submitted applications.
But two of the requirements are that applicants were in the United States on June 15, 2012 and that they have "continuously resided" in the country since June 2007. While most applicants have school or employment records to prove the latter, the first can be tricky. And people have been submitting some interesting documentation.
David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says about 80 percent of the applicants he's seen include Facebook as part of their application, either to show continued residency or to prove they were in the country on June 15.
"It's the first time in American history where a whole wave of immigrants that are actually American, culturally and otherwise American, are immigrating. Most of them live like normal, regular kids," he said.
And that includes Facebook check-ins. Applicants have submitted June 15 check-ins at restaurants and movie theaters, parties and sporting events, to show they were in the United States.
Leopold said people might also submit tweets or Netflix records. He said one young woman took a picture of her sister at their home in June. It was dated and the picture clearly showed it was the home that matched the address she provided.
It's all about connecting the dots, Leopold said. And while he said it's not usually a phrase he'd associated with a government agency, USCIS "has been going out of their way to apply common sense and reasonableness."
Erick Huerta, a member of Dream Team Los Angeles, a youth-led organization pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, applied for registration for his dog that month and submitted that receipt. Ray Jose of Maryland was able to show that he went to his gym that day.
Leopold added that people have submitted invitations to weddings or parties that were mailed to their home addresses around June 15. One young man, Manny, was on the cover of TIME Magazine in June 2012 in an article entitled, "We Are Americans: Just Not Legally." He submitted the cover as proof.
Dr. David Koelsch, a University of Detroit Mercy associate law professor and director of the Immigration Law Clinic there, helps young people apply for deferred action at Southwest Solutions, a community organization in Detroit.
Koelsch said that a speeding ticket turned out to be a blessing in disguise for one young woman who came to the organization for help. She submitted a speeding ticket from June with her application. Another young man was in a June car accident and submitted a police citation. Another guy submitted a June 13 receipt for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Patrick Taurel, a fellow with the American Immigration Council who previously helped people fill out applications in Idaho, said a young man used a newspaper article that quoted him on June 16 saying he was excited about deferred action.
A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that only individual service centers that process the applications have access to information about the documentation and that he was unable to comment on unusual submissions, but that he had seen reports of a young man from Wisconsin who submitted Xbox Live account records to show continued residency.
The agency has been "viewing evidence very liberally, not restrictively, and they've been very helpful about accepting alternative forms of evidence that show evidence that they were present around June 15," Leopold said. "I think it's wonderful."
Taurel said he wouldn't necessarily use the word "liberal" to describe the agency, but said he thinks they understand many people apply without the help of a lawyer and have been good about requesting more evidence if they have doubts instead of simply issuing denials.
"People have to think outside the box when it comes to getting evidence," he said, cautioning that people should never submit anything fraudulent. "They have to think about submitting anything relevant."
We'd love to hear from you: Have you or anyone you know submitted unusual documentation as part of a DACA application? Let us know in the comments section.