June 18, 2020
On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court found in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration’s acts to end DACA violated the law and vacated the order ending DACA.
DACA is the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program initiated in 2012 during the Obama Administration. It provides two important benefits to individuals who qualified and applied. DACA gives individuals the ability to apply for employment authorization to work lawfully in the United States. This then provides eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. DACA is also an agreement that the federal government will not commence removal proceedings against individuals for renewable increments of two years. It is not a pathway to citizenship or permanent resident (green card) status.
In order to qualify for DACA an individual must:
The Secretary of Homeland Security in 2012 stated that individuals who met the above criteria warrant favorable treatment under the immigration laws. Secretary Janet Napolitano stated that these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law, were productive contributors to our society, and only know this country as home.
In September 2017, then Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke issued a memorandum terminating DACA based on the recommendation of then Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the program was illegal. In the memorandum, the Secretary of Homeland Security stated that immigration would not accept any new applications, but individuals whose benefits were expiring within six months could submit renewal applications during a brief window.
Chief Justice John Roberts found that the government agency did not follow proper procedures in trying to rescind DACA. The majority of the Supreme Court also found that the decision to terminate DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” or without sufficient reason or explanation. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested during oral argument, if the administration wants to “destroy lives,” the law requires it to offer a fuller explanation of why.
DACA survives for now. Applications to renew DACA will continue to be accepted. USCIS should also reinitiate program for accepting initial applications at some point in the future. However, this has not happened yet and individuals should wait for notice from USCIS before submitting an application and should consult with qualified immigration attorney.
Not necessarily. The Trump administration could issue new memorandum ending DACA and provide justification for why it is doing so. DACA recipients should still consult with immigration attorneys to see if they qualify for a pathway to citizenship.
The McGeorge Immigration Law Clinic provides free legal services to immigrants in the Sacramento region. Our services include assistance with DACA renewal applications. Since the program was initiated in 2012, our students, staff, faculty have helped 100’s of individuals file initial and renewal applications for DACA. We are honored to be a part of the community and to work with DACA holders. Please call us at 916.340.6080 for a consultation.