What is DACA?
In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security created an immigration relief program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA for short. DACA allows undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children to apply for a two-year extension period in which they will not be deported from the country. The term “deferred action” refers to this extension period and occurs when the United States government delays an individual’s deportation, sometimes indefinitely. However, it does not mean the government grants the individual legal status or a path to citizenship.
During this two-year period of deferred action, an immigrant may become eligible for a work permit in the United States. A work permit, also known as an EAD (employment authorization document), allows noncitizens to legally work in the country. However, the permit does not grant them legal immigration status. DACA also allows young individuals to attend college, even if they may not qualify for federal loans.
According to the United States Supreme Court, as of June 18, 2020, an estimated 700,000 young people have been granted DACA.
According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an individual requesting DACA must meet the following 7 qualifications:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Entered the United States before the age of 16
- Have resided in the United States since June 15, 2007 through the present day
- Were physically present in the US both on June 15, 2012 and on the day of requesting DACA
- Had no legal status in the United States on June 15, 2012
- Are enrolled in school, or have graduated from high school, or have obtained a GED certificate, or they are an honorably discharged veteran from the military or Coast Guard
- Have not been convicted of a crime (felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors)
An individual must also be at least 15 years of age to request DACA unless they are currently in removal proceedings or have a final removal or voluntary departure order.
Put simply, to qualify for DACA one must have entered the country as a minor on or before June 2007, stayed in the country the entire time, and be in good educational and legal standing. The government does not accept these qualifications on good faith; rather, they require proof. The most effective type of proof is known as Tier 1 proof which includes documents such as high school and middle school diplomas or medical records. If Tier 1 proof is unavailable, USCIS may also accept Tier 2 proof at its own discretion. This type of proof is less powerful and is usually in the form of secondary sources such as letters from family members demonstrating an individual’s residence in the United States.
DACA was first established as an executive branch memorandum under President Barack Obama. His administration further expanded the program in 2014 with the support of the U.S. Supreme Court despite lawsuits by multiple states. Since then, the Trump Administration has attempted to reverse that expansion and eliminate DACA in its entirety. Several lawsuits were filed against the administration, one of which made its way to the Supreme Court.
That lawsuit is known as Trump v. NAACP (DACA), however, recently on June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling. In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration and upheld the existence of DACA. The ruling allows young individuals who currently benefit from DACA to file for renewal. It also allows people who have never before been granted DACA the ability to apply.
Chief Justice John Roberts’ written opinion does not comment on the quality of DACA as a policy. Instead, it focuses on the Trump Administration’s inability to provide any reasonable justification for repealing the program. In 2017, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had claimed that without sufficient evidence, DACA was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling specifically noted this lack of evidence and further criticized the Trump Administration’s failure to address the significant benefits of upholding DACA. Many young people require DACA, and through DACA they are able to contribute to the United States’ economy as it allows them to work in the country. In fact, individuals supported by the program pay $60 billion in taxes annually according to NPR.
Though President Trump tweeted that the decision was a “shotgun blast into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republican,” the 700,000 DACA recipients will be relieved to know that they will continue to receive those benefits.
Ahmad & Associates expects debate over this issue to continue as the Trump Administration lambasts the Supreme Court decision. However, the recent ruling is certainly a win for immigrants who entered the country as children and now require government assistance. If you or a family member qualifies for DACA either as a new applicant or a renewal, feel free to contact us at your convenience. We are here to help.