What is DACA?

In 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama issued a memorandum that instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and meet certain eligibility criteria to (i) request a period of “deferred action” from the government and (ii) apply for authorization to work in the U.S. Though a grant of DACA represents the government’s decision not to take action to remove a person from the U.S., it does not impart any legal immigrant or nonimmigrant status. DACA benefits are generally valid for two years from the date of issuance.

Why did the Trump administration try to terminate it?

On September 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it was rescinding the 2012 DACA memorandum and terminating the program. The agency stated that the decision to terminate DACA was based on a determination by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions that DACA was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” The DHS memorandum provided that the agency would allow a “wind-down” period and would stop renewing DACA applications that expired on or after March 6, 2018.

How did the issue make it to the Supreme Court?

Multiple parties filed lawsuits challenging the government’s termination of DACA as unlawful. These lawsuits resulted in injunctions by federal courts to maintain the status quo while the cases proceeded. The injunctions required DHS to continue accepting applications to renew DACA by individuals who currently have or previously had DACA, but not initial applications.

Are there other lawsuits challenging DACA?

Yes. Texas and other states brought a lawsuit in 2018 challenging the legality of DACA. This is different from the other cases, which challenged the Trump administration’s termination of DACA. On July 16, 2021, the federal judge in Texas ruled that the DACA program is unlawful because the Obama administration violated rulemaking procedures when it introduced DACA in 2012. The court blocked DHS from continuing to implement DACA, but the decision does not affect current DACA recipients. The government will appeal the ruling.

How many people are present in the U.S. on DACA?

There are more than 800,000 “Dreamers” in the U.S. who have been granted relief under DACA. An estimated 700,000 DACA recipients are currently working for U.S. employers.

Has the Biden administration taken actions relating to DACA?

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to “take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.” President Biden also included a path to citizenship for Dreamers in the immigration bill he sent to Congress, the U.S. Citizenship Act. DHS plans to propose a regulation in the coming months to preserve and fortify DACA.

Will Congress find a legislative solution?

Only Congress has authority to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers that offers legal status in the U.S., and stakeholders have been encouraging lawmakers for years to find a bipartisan solution. It is impossible to predict at this time whether Congress will pass a law that grants some form of relief from removal to DACA beneficiaries.