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Past, Present, and Future Status for Dreamers

By: Patricia Elizee, Esq.,


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA Explained


DACA enables certain people who came to the U.S as children and meet several key guidelines to request consideration for temporary relief from deportation (deferred action). It allows non-U.S. citizens who qualify to remain in the country for two years, subject to renewal. Recipients are eligible for work authorization and other benefits, and are shielded from deportation. The fee to request DACA is $495 every two years.


DACA Recipients


DACA was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama, it’s intention was to provide temporary clearance to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children (a group often referred to as “Dreamers”). The recipients of DACA are young individuals who have grown up as Americans, identify themselves as Americans, and many speak only English and have no memory of or connection with their country of birth.


Eligibility:

  • Must have arrived in the U.S before the age of 16 and lived here since June 15, 2007

  • No older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012

  • Provide evidence that they were living in the U.S at the prescribed times

  • Show proof of education and confirmation of their identities.

  • Must pass background, fingerprint, and other biometric screenings.


As reported by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), data indicates as of March 2021 over 600,000 people are active DACA recipients. According to the Migration Policy Institute, more than 1.3 million U.S. residents were eligible for DACA as originally implemented. As shown, thousands of people rely on the DACA program to protect themselves, family, and friends from being pushed out of the only country they have ever known.


Status of the Program


In 2017, the Trump administration tried ending DACA but the US Supreme Court blocked it’s attempt in June 2020. After the Supreme Court ruling, the Trump administration then tried to prevent new DACA applications from being accepted and attempted to change renewals from two years to one year. Fortunately, courts have kept the program running for people who currently have or have ever held DACA status and in January 2021, the Biden administration reopened it to first-time applicants.


On July 17, 2021, a Federal judge in Texas ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program shielding certain undocumented immigrants from deportation, is illegal and blocked new applicants. Judge Andrew Hanen concluded that DACA is unlawful because it violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal rulemaking, by evading the process for adopting new rules.


The Consequences of Losing DACA


If DACA ends, individuals would lose both protection from deportation and their work authorization. Many DACA recipients are essential workers including doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, child care providers, business owners, first responders, and more. The loss of these individuals would have a substantial impact on the U.S economy.


Losing DACA would make higher education inaccessible. In several states, DACA recipients can pay in-state tuition rates, but this is not the case for the wider community of undocumented students. The end of DACA would also cause problems for students in states that permit DACA recipients to enroll in public universities but ban undocumented students from doing so.


DACA also allows recipients to apply for driver's licenses in all states, meaning that as an individual's DACA expires, so, too, might their license. While some states and Washington, D.C, permit all undocumented immigrants-even those without DACA- to apply for driver’s licenses, 38 do not.


Disadvantages:

  • Inability to work legally

  • Face unfair wages

  • No Insurance such as dental, vision, and health care

  • Ineligible to receive benefits such as section 8, food stamps, reduced lunch, aid for college, and other forms of financial assistance