Over the past few years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Removals program (DACA) has been in the news quite a bit. Currently, there are more than 600,000 beneficiaries of the DACA program currently living in the U.S., so any changes to the program can have wide-reaching effects.
It’s for this reason that USCIS’s decision to no longer accept DACA applications has made headlines repeatedly over the last year.
Looking forward, one of the most important upcoming dates for the DACA program is October 6th, 2018. On that day, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to allow a full repeal of DACA. If this appeal is successful, the government could theoretically put an end to DACA renewals as early as mid-2019.
This is a critical juncture for both DACA recipients and immigration lawyers. For this reason, there is no better time to look back on the history of the DACA program.
To that end, in this article we’ll go over the general goals of the DACA program, and whether those were met over the past six years.
What is DACA?
At its core, DACA is a program which prevents individuals who came to the U.S. as children from being deported.
However, in order to qualify for DACA, immigrants must graduate from high school or receive an equivalent level of education. Additionally, DACA recipients must avoid committing any felony or significant misdemeanor in order to remain eligible for the program.
Previously, individuals who fulfilled those requirements were permitted to stay in the country under DACA. However, this program was rescinded on September 5th, 2017.
At its core, DACA gives its recipients protections from removal proceedings so long as they fulfill certain conditions, as mentioned above. As a by-product of this, DACA holders can apply for work authorization, social security numbers, and a few other things normally reserved for people with permanent residency (green cards).
However, DACA does not provide a valid path towards applying for a green card, since technically DACA recipients are still in the country illegally.
In addition, DACA recipients must submit applications for renewal every two years. Otherwise, their protections will expire, possibly resulting in deportation. Fortunately, while USCIS is no longer accepting DACA applications, they are still accepting applications for DACA renewal.
What Were the Goals of the DACA Program?
DACA began as a temporary program to protect individuals illegally brought to the U.S. as children, through no fault of their own. Originally, DACA was only meant to last until a more permanent legislative solution could be found. However, strong bipartisan support for the program resulted in its continuous renewal throughout Barrack Obama’s presidency.
The Obama administration hoped that DACA would give young immigrants a reprieve from the constant fear of deportation. In addition, the administration wrote DACA so as to allow its recipients to easily work and pursue education in the U.S. This proved an important opportunity for many young immigrants, especially those who came from impoverished backgrounds.
Did DACA accomplish these goals?
In the ensuring years, DACA has proven a monumental success. In addition to successfully protecting thousands of eligible immigrants, DACA has done an excellent job of facilitating those individuals’ economic success:
Since 2012 #DACA has helped over 820,000 legally work and drive, enroll in higher education, and find safety from deportation. A new DACA survey shows that 96% of respondents are currently employed or enrolled in school. [THREAD] https://t.co/XG5mlCzcsM pic.twitter.com/fF7Rj3nOdR
— CAP Immigration (@CAPimmigration) August 15, 2018
DACA’s employment numbers are particularly impressive when compared to the national employment rate of 70.6%. This means that DACA has been incredibly effective at targeting driven individuals and encouraging them to seek career success.
Additionally, over 25,000 DACA recipients have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, with many more in the process of seeking one.
Is DACA good for non-DREAMers?
Clearly, DACA has proven very beneficial for those enrolled in the program. However, DACA has also has pronounced benefits for the economy as a whole.
In particular, DACA allows skilled workers who lack valid work permits to fill vacant positions, growing the sectors they work in. Furthermore, as noted above, some DACA recipients go on to become employers themselves, creating even more jobs across the U.S.
What’s Happening to DACA?
Despite the positive effects of DACA, on September 5th, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the program. At the time, this included an immediate end to applications for DACA renewal by current DREAMers. However, this decision was met with immediate legal challenges from judges and immigration lawyers across the U.S.
As a result of these challenges, several federal judges have issued rulings on DACA over the past year.
Two of these orders ruled that USCIS must accept renewal applications from current DACA recipients. These orders have seen relative success.
The third order, from a federal judge in Washington D.C., ordered USCIS to restart the DACA program in its entirety. However, USCIS has not yet acted in response to this ruling, and will not until the appeals process is over.
The status of DACA is further complicated by another case, brought forward by the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The goal of this case is the immediate shutdown of the DACA program in its entirety.
We can expect a ruling in this case to come out within the next few months.
As matters currently stand, it is likely that the Supreme Court will have to issue a ruling on DACA. The Supreme Court could decide whether or not to do so as early as October 6th, 2018.
If they do decide to hear an appeal, the Supreme Court will issue a final decision on DACA at an undetermined point in 2019.
Currently, the fate of DACA is highly uncertain. However, evidence has shown that the program was extremely successful in helping immigrants across the U.S. achieve economic mobility. Additionally, while DACA was a relatively small program, its effect on the overall economy of the U.S. was positive.
The ultimate fate of DACA and its recipients now lies in the hands of the federal court system. For this reason, current DACA recipients should seek renewals as soon as possible, before the court makes a ruling.