Frequently Asked Questions:
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Juvenile Delinquency
Adjudications and Records
Q: What is juvenile delinquency?
A: Juvenile delinquency refers to the process involving alleged violations of law by individuals
under a certain age – 18 or under or 16 or under (state laws vary). Under federal law, a
disposition of juvenile delinquency is defined as a finding made by a juvenile court of a violation
of law committed by a person prior to his or her 18th birthday.2 A finding of a violation of law in
this process is a juvenile delinquency adjudication, and the sanction or sentence accompanying
such an adjudication is a juvenile disposition. A juvenile adjudication is not considered a
conviction of a crime, but a determination of the status of the offender.
Q: If an individual went through a court process for an offense committed when he or she
was a minor, does he or she have a juvenile delinquency adjudication?
A: Maybe. Not every youth who commits an offense while he or she is a minor will be tried in
juvenile court. Some youth are tried in adult court, which will result in an adult conviction.
Some states have hybrid courts and the outcome of the criminal proceeding may not be as clear
as in other states. Advocates should inquire about this with their clients and any other relevant
person to make sure the case resulted in a juvenile disposition and not an adult conviction. 4
This distinction is important because unlike adult convictions, juvenile adjudications are not
automatic bars to DACA.
Q: Can someone request DACA with a prior juvenile adjudication?
A: Technically yes, because juvenile adjudications will not automatically bar someone from
DACA. A juvenile adjudication will not count towards the felony, significant misdemeanor, or
three or more non-significant misdemeanors criminal bars to DACA, as long as the juvenile was
not convicted as an adult. Juveniles who have been convicted as adults for a felony, significant
misdemeanor, or three or more non-significant misdemeanors as defined by the DACA
guidelines will not be eligible for DACA unless they can show exceptional circumstances.
Q: Is there any risk in requesting DACA with a juvenile adjudication?
A: Yes, sometimes, but the risk involved depends on many factors. A juvenile adjudication is
not an automatic bar to DACA. But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be
reviewing and analyzing ANY past criminal conduct, including juvenile delinquency, in the
totality of the circumstances to determine whether the person merits a favorable exercise of
discretion. USCIS may deny under this ground. USCIS will also be reviewing any past criminal
conduct, including juvenile delinquency, to determine if the DACA requestor poses a threat to
public safety or national security. If the requestor is found to be a threat to public safety or
national security, he or she will not be granted DACA and may even be placed into removal
proceedings. USCIS can also refer the case to other law enforcement agencies for the
investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense.
Advocates should not presume that everyone with a juvenile record should not request DACA on
the assumption that all juvenile records are serious problems. Advocates should also not
presume that juvenile records are harmless and there is no risk in submitting a DACA request for
someone with such a record. Be open minded yet cautious and help your client make an