The past few years have been a challenging time for immigrants to the United States, particularly those without a legal status. During the Obama administration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, gave hope to many who were brought to the United States as children by their parents. Instead of being under constant threat of deportation to a country they may not remember and where they may not speak the language or know anyone, DACA recipients could continue to build a life in the only home many knew.
Things changed under the Trump administration. In 2017, the administration attempted to vacate DACA, making the future uncertain for hundreds of thousands. The administration’s reason for terminating the program was that its creation was an overreach of executive authority. Challenges in several federal courts put DACA’s termination on hold.
In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the attempt to terminate DACA was invalid due to violations of federal administrative law. That was good news for those waiting to apply, but the good news was short-lived. In July, a Maryland federal court ordered the administration to begin accepting new DACA applicants (current DACA recipients were still able to apply for renewal).
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, on July 28, 2020, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, (DHS), Chad Wolf almost immediately issued a memorandum that blocked all new DACA applications and cut renewal work permits from two years to one.
In November 2020, federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, NY ruled that DHS had failed to follow the required order of succession and that Chad Wolf had not been lawfully serving as the department’s acting secretary when he issued that memorandum. The judge vacated the changes made in the memorandum.
On December 4, Judge Garaufis ordered the restoration of DACA as it existed under the Obama administration, including opening the program to first-time applicants and restoring two-year work permits for approved applicants, rather than the one-year permit DHS attempted to impose earlier in the year.
The restoration of DACA is welcome news, affecting nearly a million people. About 640,000 individuals are currently protected under the program. Perhaps 300,00 more are eligible, but have never applied. Here are some things DACA recipients and potential applicants should be aware of.
If you are a DACA recipient who received a one-year grant of DACA with employment authorization, your permit will be automatically extended to two years at no cost to you. You should receive notice of this from the U.S. government by January 8, 2021.
If you applied for DACA for the first time, or applied for advance parole, and your application was received after June 30, 2020, it may have been rejected under the memorandum issued by Acting Secretary Wolf. You can expect to receive a notice by January 8, 2021 inviting you to reapply.
If you currently have a pending request for DACA or pending request for advance parole, you don’t need to do anything. Your application will be processed according to the federal court’s December 4 order reinstating DACA as it existed prior to the attempts to vacate the program.
If you have not yet applied for DACA, but are eligible, you should consider submitting an application as soon as possible.
In order to qualify for DACA, you must:
The restoration of the DACA program is welcome news to the hundreds of thousands of young people who consider the United States their home. DACA protection allows them to participate fully in their communities, including working to support their families.
If you are eligible for DACA but need assistance applying or renewing your protection, an experienced immigration attorney can help. Please contact our law office to schedule a consultation and to have your questions answered.