Updates on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Since its implementation in 2012 by the Obama Administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been a topic of debate in the United States.  The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas has recently been at the forefront of major decisions regarding the program. On July 16, 2021, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA was unlawful. The decision was appealed and argued throughout 2021 and 2022. On September 13, 2023, a Final Order was issued by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas that found DACA unlawful. A copy of the order can be found here.

The Final Order issued this September is an expansion of the injunction from July 16, 2021, which also sought to find DACA unlawful. Similar to the 2021 ruling, the new order upholds that DACA recipients with initial status on or before July 16, 2021, who currently have valid grants and employment authorization document related to their DACA status, will continue to be recognized.

Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will continue to accept or deny the filing of DACA renewal requests and related employment authorization (EAD) requests. The Final Order does allow for initial requests to but submitted, but DHS cannot adjudicate them. On September 13, 2023, the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released a statement regarding the order, which can be found here.

Although this order poses issues for current and potential DACA recipients, the decision “declined to order an immediate end to the program and the protections it offers to recipients.”  It is anticipated that the order will eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Current recipients can continue to renew their DACA grants and EAD requests during the appropriate times for their renewals. Information regarding renewing DACA can be found here.  Despite DHS being unable to process initial DACA requests, they are still accepting first-time applications. To qualify for DACA applicants must meet several eligibility requirements that are explained here.

If you would like assistance or more information regarding DACA and whether you qualify, please contact our office at 734-369-3131.

Federal Judge Orders Full Reinstatement of DACA

On December 4, 2020, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered full reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A copy of the order can be found here. This order is a victory for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth as it reverses the Trump Administration’s efforts to end the DACA program over the last three years.

Former President Barack Obama implemented the DACA program in 2012. The program shields immigrants who were brought unlawfully to the United States as children from deportation and offers them work permits. To receive DACA, applicants must demonstrate various requirements including continuous residence in the U.S., enrollment or graduation from high school, and lack of felony conviction. A full list of eligibility requirements may be found here.

In his recent decision, Judge Garaufis ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to announce that it was accepting new DACA applications. The Trump Administration in recent years limited the DACA program to renewals and the issuance of DACA grants and work permits to one year. In response to this order, DHS posted an announcement on December 7, 2020, stating that it would begin accepting first-time requests for DACA, applications for advance parole, as well as extension of one year grants of status and work permits to two years.

According to National Public Radio, “DACA currently protects about 640,000 undocumented young immigrants. As of July, an estimated 300,000 young people living in the U.S. are eligible for the program and still waiting for a chance to apply. That includes 55,000 who have aged into eligibility over the last three years.”

While this order marks a victory for the DACA program, this is not the end of the road. DACA faces a legal challenge in a different case that will be heard in Texas later this month, asking for the program to be deemed unlawful. This litigation may prove futile however, as President-elect Joe Biden has already pledged to fully restore the DACA program. While the future remains to be seen, it appears to be brighter once Joe Biden takes office in January.

USCIS Will Accept Advance Parole Requests from DACA Recipients

On August 24, 2020, USCIS announced some updated procedures regarding DACA recipients.  The most important change in USCIS policy is that USCIS will accept requests for advance parole from DACA recipients.

You may access the full policy memo here.

But USCIS cautioned that advance parole requests will need to establish “exceptional circumstances” in order to be approved.  In the past, under President Obama, USCIS routinely approved DACA recipients’ advance parole applications that requested travel permission for educational and employment purposes, or to visit an ill grandparent.  It appears that now, USCIS would not approve those applications.

USCIS provided a few examples of travel that might be approved:

  • to support national security or military interests
  • to further U.S. federal law enforcement interests
  • to get life-sustaining medical treatment that is not available in the United States
  • to support the immediate safety, well-being, or care of an immediate relative, especially minor children

Please note that this list does not include all potential reasons to request advance parole.

In the new memo, USCIS also repeated the position from July 2020 that they will reject all initial DACA requests from persons who never previously had DACA.  But now USCIS also states that if, in the future, they begin to accept first-time applications for DACA, then a prior rejected application would not cause a problem for a future applicant.  USCIS also repeated the announcement last month that it will grant DACA renewals for one year at a time, rather than two years at a time.

Trump Defies DACA Rulings

On July 28, 2020, the Trump Administration announced that USCIS will:

  • reject all initial DACA requests – applications by persons who have never before received DACA status.
  • reject all applications for advance parole based on DACA, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
  • approve DACA renewal applications for only one year, instead of two.

These announcements appear to directly contradict the ruling of the Supreme Court last month that the Trump Administration did not act properly when it ended DACA.

Legal challenges to the Trump Administration’s July 28 announcement are likely.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeared to indicate that he would return to court, stating that DACA should be “in full effect, including for new applications.  The courts have spoken.  We know what it takes to defend DACA . . . and we’ll do it again if necessary.”

DACA enjoys overwhelming support among the American people, including among Republicans.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Dreamers

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” in the case of Department of Homeland Security vs. Regents of the University of California. A full copy of the opinion can be found here. DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a policy that was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama in an effort to provide legal status for certain undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children.

In his never-ending campaign to halt immigration to the United States, President Donald Trump ordered an end to DACA on September 5, 2017, thereby placing the legal status of approximately 800,000 DACA recipients in jeopardy.

Following the President’s decision to end DACA, several lawsuits were filed against the administration. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA recipients, 5-4, “calling the Trump administration’s rescinding of the program ‘arbitrary and capricious;’ it’s been a cause for celebration—if a cautious one— by advocates and the ‘Dreamers.’”

Despite this most recent Supreme Court decision, the fight for DACA recipients is far from over. According to Roberto Gonzales, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, “The courts didn’t rule on the program, but rather on how the Trump administration terminated the program. So the ball goes back to the Trump administration’s court, even to Congress, to try to do something.”

Unsurprisingly, President Trump was not happy with the Supreme Court’s decision. He sent out several tweets on Twitter attacking the decision and setting forth false information. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) still plans to pursue ending the DACA program at the behest of President Trump.

This decision by the Supreme Court is one of the few that has ruled against President Trump in the arena of immigration. While it is certain that President Trump will continue his pursuit of ending this program as well as other forms of immigration, for now, this decision is a victory for DACA recipients who deserve the chance to lead their lives in the United States without fear of losing their legal status.

How Will the Supreme Court Rule on DACA?

As we noted earlier, among the eight immigration cases pending at the Supreme Court is the question of whether the current administration’s attempt to end DACA was legally proper.  The Supreme Court heard oral argument on November 12, 2019.

The case focuses on two questions:  (1) Are the courts even allowed to review the government’s decision to end DACA?  (2) Did the government violate the law in the way that it went about ending DACA?

Are courts able to review the decision to end DACA?

The administration’s first argument is that the courts may not review the decision to end DACA, because that decision was within the federal government’s discretion, and so may not be second-guessed.

One weakness of the government’s argument is that the original justification that the administration provided for ending DACA is that the program was illegal, and so the administration had no choice but to end the illegal program.  Justice Ginsburg pointed out the problem:  on the one hand, the government says that it had the discretion to end the program, while on the other hand, the government says it had no discretion because the program was illegal.

Did the government attempt to end DACA in a lawful way?

Both sides agree that the current administration could end DACA if it chose to do so in a legally proper way – by providing sufficient reasoning behind the decision.

The government’s original justification for ending DACA was a brief memo that stated that the program was illegal, and so it must be ended.  Those supporting the DACA program argue that the government’s original reasons were not sufficient to justify the decision to end the program.

The government later provided an additional memo that attempted to more fully address all of the factors involved, including the reliance of about 700,000 persons who have DACA.  One question that the justices must sort out is, if the DACA program is legal (despite the current administration’s argument that it isn’t), then is the administration’s justification for ending DACA sufficient?

We expect the Supreme Court to issue a decision any time between now and the end of June 2020.

Immigration Cases at the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has eight pending immigration cases, and we are likely to see decisions on most or all of them by June 2020, when the Supreme Court ends its current session.  Here is a run-down of the eight cases:

  1. Perhaps the most anticipated case involves the future of DACA. The Supreme  Court will decide whether the Trump Administration’s decision to end DACA was legal.  Based on the oral argument, held in November 2019, the Court is likely to be sharply divided on the question.  If the Supreme Court decides that President Trump legally ended DACA, the next question will be exactly how the Administration will end the program.  Because the future of DACA is very uncertain at this time, we suggest that all persons who currently have DACA to consider applying to renew DACA as soon as possible, before the Supreme Court issues a decision.  Our reason for making this suggestion is that, if the Court rules that President Trump legally ended DACA, then there will no longer be any opportunity to renew DACA.
  2. In Kansas v. Garcia, the Court will decide whether states may prosecute undocumented persons who use stolen data such as Social Security numbers to obtain work, or whether such prosecutions are only permitted by federal officials. The federal I-9 form, which job applicants must complete in order to obtain employment, states that the information put on the form may only be used for federal law purposes.
  3. Another case before the Supreme Court focuses on whether certain noncitizens may appeal certain decisions to federal courts of appeals. Congress has enacted a law that specifically allows federal courts to review “questions of law.”  But federal appeals courts generally do not have the power to review “questions of fact.”  In cases before the Supreme Court this term, two noncitizens filed late motions to reopen their deportation cases.  The Board of Immigration Appeals denied their motions.  The question that the Supreme Court must answer is whether federal appeals courts may review the decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals.
  4. In Nasrallah v. Barr, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not federal courts have authority to review certain decisions. As we just noted, generally federal appeals courts do not have the power to review “questions of fact.”  But the United States has agreed to follow a document called the Convention Against Torture, and the federal government has laws that state that federal government officials may not send any persons to any countries in which they are likely to be tortured.  In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether federal appeals courts have the authority to review factual findings that resulted in denying requests for protection under the Convention Against Torture.
  5. The Constitution contains a right to file a habeas corpus petition, which is a challenge to being detained by any government authority. In DHS v. Thuraissigiam, a noncitizen entered the United States and asked for asylum.  A federal immigration official concluded that he did not have a valid asylum claim, and ordered his deportation.  He filed a habeas corpus petition in federal court, challenging his detention by federal officials as unlawful.  Congress passed a law restricting the power of federal courts to hear habeas corpus cases in certain immigration matters, such as this one.  The Supreme Court will decide whether Congress’s law is valid, or whether it violates the Constitution’s right to file a habeas corpus petition.
  6. Congress passed a law making it a crime to encourage illegal immigration for financial gain. A woman in California was convicted of helping noncitizens apply for immigration benefits that they were not entitled to receive.  A federal appeals court concluded that Congress’s law violates the First Amendment because it applies too broadly, potentially making it a crime for a lawyer to advise a client to remain in the United States while her case is pending in Immigration Court.  The Supreme Court will decide whether Congress’s law violates the Constitution.
  7. When a noncitizen applies for certain immigration benefits in Immigration Court, there is a question of whether certain criminal convictions disqualify the person from seeking the benefit. Some minor offenses, such as driving without a license, generally do not disqualify a person, while more serious offenses do.  Most criminal convictions occur in state courts, while lists of disqualifying crimes are based on federal law, listing federal offenses.  Sometimes, it’s unclear whether a conviction under a state law fits within the federal law definition.  In this case, the Supreme Court will decide who bears the burden of this question:  Is it the noncitizen’s responsibility to show that the state conviction is not a disqualifying federal crime?  Or is it the federal government’s job to show that the state conviction is a disqualifying federal crime?
  8. Finally, the Supreme Court will decide a case that focuses on a legal distinction between being “deportable” and being “inadmissible.” A permanent resident (green-card holder) in the United States was convicted of a crime in the United States.  In Immigration Court, he was in danger of losing his permanent resident status as a result of the conviction, and so he applied for a certain benefit that, if approved, would allow him to keep his green-card status.  Immigration law indicates that his criminal conviction makes him “inadmissible,” and so he’s not eligible to apply for the benefit.  He argues, on the other hand, that he’s not asking to be admitted to the United States – he’s already been admitted – and so he should be able to request the benefit.  The Supreme Court will decide whether a permanent resident can be considered “inadmissible” when he is not seeking admission to the United States.

Decisions are expected by the end of June 2020.

The Importance of Renewing DACA Now

It is no longer possible to apply for DACA if you have not already been granted DACA.  You can, however, apply to renew your DACA status if you have been granted DACA in the past.  Even if you currently have DACA, and even if your current DACA status is valid until late 2020, you should consider applying to renew DACA now.

Here’s why.

The Trump Administration has been trying to end the DACA program.  DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was begun by President Obama in 2012 as a way to provide protection against removal, and employment authorization, for certain people who entered the United States before age 16 and who either have a high school degree or are studying for a high school or GED degree.

The U.S.  Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in case that will decide whether the DACA program survives, or whether it is ended completely.  The case is scheduled to be argued at the Supreme Court on November 12, 2019.  After the argument, the Supreme Court will consider the case, and eventually will issue a decision.  We don’t know when the Supreme Court will issue the decision, but we are almost certain that the decision will be announced between December 2019 and June 2020.

We don’t know how the Supreme Court will rule on the case.  We believe, however, that there is a significant possibility that the Supreme Court’s decision will end the DACA program.

If the Supreme Court’s decision ends the DACA program, the next question is:  What happens to the people who currently have DACA?  The answer is, We don’t know.  But we hope that the U.S.  government will allow those who currently have DACA to keep their DACA status until the expiration of their employment authorization cards.

So, what is the point of applying now to renew DACA?

If you apply now to renew DACA, before the Supreme Court issues a decision that could end the DACA program, then your application might be approved, and we hope that you would at least be able to have your renewed DACA status through the expiration of your new employment authorization card.

In other words, applying now to renew DACA might give you the opportunity to have DACA status for a bit more time.

Again, we don’t know what the Supreme Court’s decision will be, and we don’t know how the Supreme Court’s decision will affect persons who currently have DACA.  But we think it’s a good idea for you to consider applying to renew DACA now, while you still can.

DREAM Announcement – Don’t Be Fooled

On June 15, 2012, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it would grant “Deferred Action” for certain people in the United States.

If U.S. Government officials are not in the process of trying to deport you, and if U.S. Government officials have never ordered your deportation in the past, then at this time you are NOT yet eligible to make any applications for anything related to this announcement.

Don’t be fooled by people offering you a green card, work authorization, or any other immigration benefit due to the recent announcement by the U.S. Government!

If the U.S. Government is not trying to deport you at this time, then you will need to wait until government officials create an application process, which will probably be in the month of August 2012.

If U.S. Government officials are in the process of trying to deport you at this time, then you should contact a knowledgeable and ethical immigration lawyer to determine if you might be eligible for the new procedures.

You might be eligible for “Deferred Action” if you meet all of the following:

  • You entered the United States before you turned age 16
  • You are now under age 31
  • You have lived in the United States for at least 5 years as of June 15, 2012
  • You are enrolled in school now, OR you graduated from high school, OR you have a GED, OR you have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • You have not been convicted of a felony, you have not been convicted of a “significant” misdemeanor, and you have not been convicted of more than 3 misdemeanors
  • You do not pose a threat to national security of public safety

You should speak with a knowledgeable and ethical immigration lawyer about your own particular immigration matter.