Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Many people refer to this new application process as the “Dream Act”, but this is not what it is.
According to the ruling of the federal district court, which entered into force on December 7, 2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must begin accepting initial applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and accepting applications for permission to return to the United States.
The DACA litigation is still ongoing, so information about the program and how it functions can change quickly. Please consult with an immigration attorney before applying for the DACA program.
What is the DACA program?
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a federal program to help undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as a young person. It was launched in 2012 under President Barack Obama and provides a certain category of undocumented immigrants with temporary protection from deportation and the opportunity to obtain a work permit.
You may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if you currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED 123) certificate.
What is the DACA program today?
On September 5, 2017, the US government announced the end of the DACA program, which has allowed more than 825,000 young people covered by the Dream Act to escape deportation and remain in the United States. The decision to terminate the program was appealed to federal courts and subsequently reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 18, 2020 that the Trump administration’s attempt to shut down the DACA program violated federal law. The court also found that the Trump administration did not provide a compelling reason for closing the program, and therefore, it will not be able to implement its plan.
Following a Supreme Court decision, despite conflicting orders from the lower federal courts, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not reinstated the DACA program as it existed in 2012. Instead, on July 28, 2020, Chad Wolf, US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, released a new memo “Revision of the June 15, 2012, Memorandum of Prosecution Exercise of Discretionary Powers on Persons Arriving in the United States as Children.” This cheat sheet describes the new restrictions on the DACA program, including denial of initial applications, reducing DACA status and work permit renewals from two years to one year, and limiting where a person can apply for a return authorization. Lawyers and state governments challenged the new memo in federal court and won.
Federal court ruling overturns DHS memo dated July 28, 2020 and renews DACA program
On November 14, 2020, a judge of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an opinion on the July 28, 2020 memo submitted by Chad Wolf. The District Court found that Chad Wolf was not legally appointed, so the July 28, 2020 DACA Restrictions Notice was invalidated.
On December 4, 2020, a federal district court ruled that DHS must take certain steps to reactivate the DACA program as it was before the Trump administration attempted to end it. Starting December 7, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:
- accepts initial applications for participation in the DACA program in accordance with the eligibility criteria established in 2012;
- accepts applications for travel authorization to the United States in accordance with the 2012 DACA policy terms;
- continues to accept applications for renewal of DACA membership, with the option to renew for two years instead of one;
- automatically renews DACA membership and work permit from one to two years.
Could there be additional restrictions on the DACA program and could the program be closed?
- DHS has announced that there may be an attempt to overturn a recent federal court decision and order to renew the DACA program, but that decision and DHS’s requirements remain in effect at this time.
- There is also a DACA legality case pending in federal court in Texas. If the judge in this case decides that the DACA program is illegal, there is a risk that the program will be terminated again.
- We will be on the lookout for new information in the future and will continue to share it with you. However, the recent decision and order to renew DACA is a very important outcome for DACA eligible holders, eligible individuals and their families who are actively involved in efforts to get Congress to pass legislation to provide ongoing protection to individuals on whom the Dream Act applies.
How can I get help now?
If you would like to ask questions about the DACA program or get free and safe city-funded immigration legal assistance when applying for DACA or DACA status renewals, call the ActionNYC Program Hotline at 800-354-0365, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 to 18:00. Funds may be allocated (if available) to help pay the DACA application fee. Ask your lawyer about this when you first meet.
You can also get more information on www.uscis.gov.
Additional resources for DACA status holders
The Cities for Action (C4A) Coalition has created a set of tools to help DACA Members and Immigrant Communities learn about the current status of the DACA program and about access to resources, including financial resources, in an ever-changing environment. and provide DACA Members with an opportunity to make their voices heard and to communicate the message that DACA Members are an important part of society and organizations in the United States. Please visit www.citiesforaction.us for more information.