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New DACA applications are being accepted

New DACA applications are being accepted

DACA is back!  For the first time since September 2017,  new DACA applications are being accepted.  Everyone loves to talk about DACA, but amidst all the excitement is a lot of confusion and misinformation. To help you in your DACA conversations this holiday season, I’ve prepared this DACA cheat-sheet that will help you understand how we got here, what’s happening with DACA now, and who is actually eligible (not not-eligible) for DACA status. 

What is DACA?

DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is not a law passed by Congress but is instead an executive program created by President Obama in 2012 to provide support for undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the U.S. as children. DACA is NOT a legal immigration status but is instead a promise from the government not to deport you for two years and to give you a work permit during your 2-year DACA term. There are currently over 645,000 DACA recipients in the US.  While the vast majority are from Mexico, anyone who meets the criteria is eligible, regardless of their nationality.  

Who is Eligible for DACA?

DACA is available to you if you…

  • Were younger than 31 and living in the U.S. without a legal status on the day DACA was announced – June 15, 2012
  • First arrived in the U.S. before age 16
  • Have lived in the U.S. since at least June 15, 2007
  • Meet certain educational or military service requirements, and
  • Don’t have any serious criminal history

Why is the Status of the DACA Program So Confusing?

Because the DACA program is not a law created by Congress, it can be changed or canceled at any time, as long as the administration follows proper legal procedures in making those changes. The confusion arises when the government actors don’t follow the rules.  

President Obama created the program in 2012 and in September of 2017, President Trump canceled the program with little to no notice (notice of changes are required by law). This cancellation was immediately challenged in multiple federal courts and after 3 years these cases finally made their way to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

In June of 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on the DACA cancellation.  They found that while President Trump had the authority to cancel the program, he didn’t follow the lawful procedures when he did so. Following this ruling, the DACA program should have been in full force again, but in a highly unusual move, the Trump administration ignored the Supreme Court ruling and refused to reinstate DACA.  

In July, a federal court ordered the administration to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling and begin accepting new DACA applications. The Trump administration again ignored this court order and instead issued a memo calling the Supreme Court ruling “unlawful” and refusing to restart the DACA program.  This memo was, of course, challenged in court.  

In November of this year a federal judge, at this point very annoyed with the Trump Administration’s continual disregard of court orders, issued an unusually specific order requiring the government to update the language on its DACA website to say “that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration for deferred action under DACA.” The government followed this order and on December 7th, 2020, started accepting first-time DACA applications.

What’s Next?

DACA is better than nothing but is frankly not enough.  DACA recipients are Americans in all but paperwork. Many have lived here since they were babies or toddlers, and contribute immensely to this country through their work as teachers, nurses, and scholars.  Our country needs them, and they need a path to citizenship. I would encourage you to learn more about DACA, educate those around you, and speak up whenever legislation is proposed that could provide a permanent solution for the Dreamers.

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