DACA Program Restored
On December 4, 2020 the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York issued a decision reviving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This decision affirmed that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf did not have the authority to create additional limitations on DACA.
The court ordered US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to restore DACA. USCIS must accept initial DACA applications, grant DACA for two years, and issue Advance Parole. This decision enables people who did not previously receive DACA to apply and opens the door for young immigrants who grew up in the United States to get work authorization. Nearly 700,000 people have DACA, about 138 of them live in Alaska.
For the last three years, DACA has been the subject of hotly contested litigation. DACA was created by President Obama in 2012. DACA protects Dreamers, young people who were brought to the United States as children. DACA enables Dreamers to have work permits and protects them from deportation. However, the protection that DACA provides is temporary. It is not a pathway to citizenship. Many people with DACA have no other way to gain immigration status in the United States.
The executive order creating DACA was meant to be temporary solution while Congress created a long-term solution. However, Congress has failed to pass legislation protecting Dreamers.
On September 5th, 2017, then attorney general Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would be rescinded. In June 2020, the US Supreme Court issued a decision that DACA was improperly rescinded and that it should be restored. In response, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf issued a memo limiting DACA protections to one year, and refusing to accept initial DACA applications or issue Advance Parole. This meant that anyone who did not receive DACA before September 5, 2017 was unable to apply for the program. The memo also specified that DACA recipients would only receive work authorization and protection for one year, but the filing fees would remain $495.
After this most recent court decision, Dreamers must meet the following requirements to receive DACA:
- Were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012
- Came to the United States before turning 16
- Have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007
- Were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and when you apply
- Have graduated from high school, earned a GED, or were honorably discharged from the military
- Have not committed a felony, significant misdemeanor, or 3 or more misdemeanors
-Pay a filing fee of $495
For many DACA recipients, the United States is the only country they know. They are going to school, raising children, starting businesses, and saving lives in this country. An estimated 29,000 DACA recipients are healthcare workers. While they are working tirelessly to save the lives of Americans, the Trump administration has fought to take away their immigration status. As the history of DACA shows, DACA is precarious. This court decision is a step towards securing Dreamers’ immigration status, but true stability can only be achieved through legislation by Congress.
The Alaska Institute for Justice has been fighting for a legislative fix for Dreamers for nearly 20 years.
If you are interested in attending a virtual, confidential meeting regarding the next steps in advocacy for Dreamers, please contact the author at email@example.com.