The End of DACA

On June 15, 20212, Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. President Trump later pledged to end DACA as part of his campaign platform. On June 29, 2017, Texas and nine other states sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions stating that legal action would be taken to challenge DACA unless DHS agreed to “phase out” the program by rescinding the 2012 DACA memo and halting approval of any new or renewal DACA applications. On September 5, 2017, President Trump caved and announced that the DACA program would be rescinded. This impacts approximately 800,000 young applicants who entered the U.S. before age 16, and who have been enjoying temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. Trump passed the ball to Congress and asked them to act, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know now.

Who has DACA status? These are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as Dreamers.  DACA recipients have been able to come out stop hiding and obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college, and legally secure jobs. They also pay income taxes.

How are they phasing out the program? USCIS will adjudicate properly filed initial DACA requests and associated applications for work authorization that were accepted by USCIS as of the announcement on September 5, 2017, but they will reject any initial DACA requests filed after that. USCIS will also continue to accept renewal applications through October 5, 2017, but only for DACA recipients whose benefits will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. USCIS will reject all DACA renewal requests that do not fit these parameters, including all applications received after October 5, 2017.

Why can’t they just apply for status?  DACA grants recipients work permission and protects them from deportation, but it alone does not confer citizenship or legal permanent resident status.  DACA recipients who entered the country illegally cannot apply for residency the same way as people who entered legally and overstayed their visas. They can, however, apply for “advance parole,” which gives recipients permission to travel outside the United States under special circumstances and is not specific to DACA. When they return to the United States, they enter legally, opening other avenues for legal status.  Now, this option has been halted by the Trump administration, and the new announcements include no further approvals of travel permits by USCIS.

So how have some folks with DACA become residents?  This is possible because DACA recipients can change their immigration status through a legal basis other than DACA (like marrying an American citizen or being petitioned by a relative).  While immigration law bars people who overstayed their visa from returning to the United States for three or 10 years, depending on how long they have resided here unlawfully, DACA halts recipients’ accrual of “unlawful presence.” So someone who obtained DACA status before the re-entry penalty was triggered would remain protected from it.

According to USCIS, just under 40,000 DACA recipients have obtained residency and over 1,000 have become American citizens.

How many people will be affected?  From August through December 2017, 201,678 individuals are set to have their DACA status expire. 55,258 have submitted requests for renewal to USCIS, and more could do so before the October 5 deadline.  In calendar year 2018, 275,344 will have their DACA status expire. From January through August 2019, 321,920 DACA permits will expire.  By March 2020, there should be no more DACA recipients unless Congress acts.

What can you do about it? Call your Congressmen, write the White House, post on social media, and get informed!

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