A legal battle is raging over the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because of a decision by the Department of Homeland Security which stated that the Department of Homeland Security is considering the future of DACA and shortened the period that people were protected under DACA. The Alaska Institute for Justice continues its zealous representation of dozens of DACA recipients in Alaska. In 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 138 initial DACA applications and 419 renewals from Alaska.
DACA was created by President Obama in 2012 in order to protect people who were brought to the United States as children. DACA was created for people who were under 16 when they came to the United States, who came before June 15, 2007, were currently in school or had graduated from high school, and were under 30 years old on June 15, 2012. With some exceptions, you could not apply for DACA until you were 15 years old. The age requirements excluded many people who grew up in the United States. Originally, people who received DACA were protected from deportation and received work permits for two years. DACA recipients have continued to be able to renew their work permits since 2012.
For many DACA recipients, DACA is a lifeline, providing essential documentation that allows them to receive a work permit and social security number. DACA immigration status does not prevent their deportation, and once the Department of Homeland Security terminates DACA status they can be deported. DACA recipients are not eligible to become lawful permanent residents or US citizens. DACA is the only way that they can have security in the country they grew up in. DACA recipients have enrolled in university programs and developed careers. They have created businesses. They have joined the military. They have bought houses and started families, and have US citizen children. They have become a crucial part of American communities. They are our friends and neighbors.
On September 4, 2017, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was unlawful. The next day acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, issued a memo stating that the Department of Homeland Security would not accept any initial DACA applications and would only renew work permits that were going to expire before March 4, 2018.
This ignited a legal battle that is still raging. In June of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the way DACA was ended violated the Administrative Procedure Act. It determined that the decision to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” In other words, the government did not put enough thought into its decision to end DACA. The Supreme Court’s order reinstated DACA. The US District Court in Maryland ordered the Department of Homeland Security to accept initial DACA applications.
On July 28, 2020, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, issued a memo that questions the future of DACA. The memo claims that the Department of Homeland Security is going to consider the future of DACA. In the meanwhile, it will not accept any DACA applications from people who have never had DACA and will reject initial applications it received after the Supreme Court’s decision. Work permits issued under DACA will only be valid for 1 year, instead of 2. The cost for the work permits will remain the same, currently $495.
DACA recipients grew up in the United States. They have worked hard to build lives in the United States. Yet again, this administration appears to be preparing to take everything from them. The Alaska Institute for Justice is interested in coordinating advocacy with DACA recipients, via group Zoom calls. Any DACA recipient who is interested in this effort should email Anna Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org
At this time, DACA recipients whose work permits will expire in the next year should consider renewing them. Given the constantly changing status of DACA, it is crucial that recipients speak with an attorney before renewing their status.