WHAT IS DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is legislation enacted by executive order during the Obama administration that protects immigrants who came to the United States as young children. DACA does not grant legal immigration status, but rather allows individuals who were brought to the United States unlawfully by their parents prior to the age of sixteen to reside and work in the country without the risk of deportation.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
One of the platforms that formed the cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 was a commitment to ending DACA. Since he took office, President Trump and his administration have made consistent efforts to dismantle the program. On September 5, 2017, the Administration announced that it was terminating DACA and would begin to “wind up” the program in the following six months. This decision was quickly challenged and enjoined from taking effect by several federal courts until litigation eventually reached the Supreme Court. On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court issued the opinion for the Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 140 S. Ct. 1891 (2020), in which they ruled that the Trump administration acted unlawfully in 2017 and thereby preserved DACA for the time being. Despite this decision, the USCIS website currently reads that the department “will reject all initial DACA requests from aliens who have never previously been granted DACA.” The relevant memorandums, and other official updates, can be found on the USCIS website.
WHERE DOES DACA STAND NOW?
As of July 2020, DACA, which protects approximately 650,000 immigrants, has been upheld by the Supreme Court and remains in effect. But the future of the Act remains uncertain, as the Supreme Court’s ruling left the door open for future litigation to rescind the Act. Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, issued a memorandum on July 28, 2020, in which he stated that DACA presents policy and security concerns which “may warrant full rescission” in the future. With a critical election on the horizon in November 2020, it is highly probable that both parties will address their intentions for DACA in their campaigns for office. The results of the Presidential Election will ultimately provide a more grounded indication as to the future of the Act.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IF I AM A DACA RECIPIENT?
For now, you can continue to remain in the United States under DACA. But it is critical to note that you have to renew your DACA application annually, since renewals are now only valid for one year, as opposed to two. Be aware that you should be renewing within ninety (90) days of the expiration date, to assure that your petition is processed on time.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IF I AM ELIGIBLE FOR DACA BUT HAVE NEVER APPLIED BEFORE?
Currently, USCIS is not accepting new applications for DACA. Unfortunately, this means that individuals who have not previously applied for or been granted DACA status are unable to do so at this time, and submission of a first-time application will be rejected. If you already applied, after the July 2020 Supreme Court Decision, USCIS has stated that all applications should be rejected and filing fees should be returned.
However, you may have other options. Contact an immigration lawyer to see what your other options for obtaining legal status and/or citizenship are based on your own individual circumstances. Through a consultation, an immigration lawyer can listen to your specific situation and give you some insight as to what your legal options are moving forward.
Also, although USCIS is not accepting new applications at the moment, gather all required documentation and evidence necessary for the application and keep it updated and ready to file. Federal courts have already ordered the Trump administration to continue accepting new applications, so monitor the news closely, because it is possible that USCIS will resume accepting new applications in the near future, at which time you should be ready to apply as soon as possible.
Feel free to submit any further inquiries on our website. In addition to contacting a qualified immigration attorney regarding your personal situation, the following are additional resources regarding USCIS’ and the Administration’s newest policies regarding DACA:
USCIS Website – USCIS Implements DHS Guidance on DACA (8/24/2020) (most recent update)