DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA Recipients are referred to as “Dreamers” and there are more than 800,000 “Dreamers” in the U.S. who have been granted relief under DACA. On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain individuals who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, as well as apply for work authorization. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion and it does not provide lawful status; however, it allows DHS to defer action against a DACA recipient (that is a DACA recipient cannot be deported while in a valid DACA status). DACA is issued for two years and it can be renewed.
DACA Eligible applicants are those who:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making the request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
DHS Memorandum to Terminate DACA
On September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was rescinding the 2012 DACA memorandum, and terminating the program, based on a determination that DACA was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” The DHS would allow DACA a “wind-down” period and would stop renewing DACA applications that expired on or after March 6, 2018.
Various lawsuits were filed challenging the government’s termination of DACA. These lawsuits resulted in injunctions by federal courts requiring DHS to continue accepting applications to renew DACA by individuals who currently have, or previously had DACA, but not to accept initial DACA applications.
The Supreme Court Decision on DACA
On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Dreamers. In DHS. V. Regents of the University of California, the Court ruled that the administration did not adequately explain its decision to end DACA. This decision allows the program to continue, and DACA recipients should renew their applications.
On November 14, 2020, a United States District Court issued an order requiring the Department of Homeland Security to reinstate the DACA policy that was in effect on September 4, 2017.
In compliance with the order of a United States District Court, effective December 7, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) based on the terms of the DACA policy in effect prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order; This included DACA Renewals and Applications for Advance Parole; extending the one-year grants of deferred action under DACA to two years; and extending one-year employment authorization documents under DACA to two years.