DACA Renewed…For Now

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DACA, an acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a policy that protects around 800,000 young people — known as “DREAMers” — who entered the United States unlawfully as children. The program does not grant them official legal status or a pathway to citizenship, but it does allow them to apply for a driver’s license, social security number, and work permit. Immigration policies can be subject to change, often making it overwhelming for individuals to stay updated on the latest rules and regulations. Hiring a trusted immigration attorney can help to ensure you understand the latest changes in immigration law.

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was ending DACA, a decision that was subsequently enjoined in the courts. Under a series of court decisions, Dreamers already covered under DACA have been able to maintain their temporary protections and continue to apply to renew their DACA protections for additional two-year terms, but new applicants have been unable to obtain protection.

The Supreme Court announced on June 28, 2019, that it would consider whether the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA was lawful. It heard oral arguments on November 12, 2019, and issued a decision allowing the policy to remain in place on June 18, 2020.

In a 5-4 opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts determined that the Trump administration failed to provide a reasoned explanation for ending DACA, invalidating the rescission. However, the court’s decision permits the administration to make another attempt to end the protections for Dreamers if it uses proper administrative procedures, including a well-reasoned explanation for its actions.

Changes to immigration law’s rules and regulations can sometimes be overwhelming. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney can be beneficial in understanding the latest updates.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Trump administration resumed processing DACA renewals but did not begin processing new DACA applications.

On December 4, 2020, a U.S. district court in the Eastern District of New York ordered the Department of Homeland Security to fully restore the eight-year-old program.

In compliance with an order of a United States District Court, effective December 7, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began:

  • Accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) based on the terms of the DACA policy in effect prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order
  • Accepting DACA renewal requests based on the terms of the DACA policy in effect prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order
  • Accepting applications for advance parole documents based on the terms of the DACA policy prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order
  • Extending one-year grants of deferred action under DACA to two years
  • Extending one-year employment authorization documents under DACA to two years

USCIS also said it will take appropriate steps to provide evidence of the one-year extensions of deferred action and employment authorization documents under DACA to individuals who were issued documentation on or after July 28, 2020, with a one-year validity period under the defunct policy.

The renewal of DACA may be short-lived. A significant legal challenge to DACA was filed by Texas — along with Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia in 2018. The challenge was heard in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, a Court that has been highly critical of DACA to date.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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