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4 things you should know about changes to DACA

On July 28, the Trump administration released a memo that works to dismantle Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA)—undermining a Supreme Court decision in June to uphold the program, which protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Tell your senators: Protect DACA recipients and call for humane immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of all people

The administration’s cruel and divisive action reaffirms that despite the Supreme Court victory, the struggle is far from over. We must continue to stand with DACA recipients, undocumented immigrant youth, and allies who have mobilized people across the country to protect DACA—and create a roadmap to citizenship for all immigrants.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening with DACA:

1. The Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was unlawful. 

DACA was created in 2012 through an executive action by President Obama, following years of organizing by undocumented immigrant youth. But in 2017, the Trump administration announced it would terminate the program, jeopardizing the futures of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious”—and a violation of federal law. The ruling preserved DACA status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, allowing them to continue to live and work in the U.S. without being targeted for detention or deportation. People who have or previously had DACA can continue to apply to renew their DACA status and remain eligible for related benefits.

However, the court’s decision was narrow. The court did not address whether the creation of DACA was lawful, leaving the door open for the Trump administration to attempt to terminate DACA again through other legal rationale. A majority of justices also decided that the termination of DACA was not motivated by discriminatory factors.

2. The Trump administration has renewed its attacks on DACA, undermining the Supreme Court's ruling.

Although the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA recipients, the Trump administration has continued its efforts to end the program. Instead of fully implementing the court’s decision, the administration released a memo stating that it would:

  • No longer accept new DACA applications.
  • Reduce the renewal period for current DACA recipients from two years to one year.
  • Reject recipients’ requests to travel outside of the U.S. for educational, employment, or humanitarian reasons (also known as “advance parole”), except in cases of “exceptional circumstances.”

These actions undermine the Supreme Court’s decision, which required the administration to resume accepting new DACA applications as well as requests from existing recipients to travel outside of the U.S.

3. The Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on DACA create more obstacles for current and potential DACA recipients.

Here’s what the memo means for:

Current DACA recipients:

  • If a current recipient has their DACA permit, they retain their current status. The expiration date for that status remains what is indicated on their work authorization card, which should be two years after the date it was issued by U.S. Citizenship and Information Services (USCIS).
  • If a current recipient has a pending renewal or has yet to renew, USCIS will issue a permit that will be valid for one year instead of the normal two-year grants, according to the Trump administration’s memo. The agency will deny renewal applications at its discretion, although it has not publicized guidelines for how it intends to exercise discretion.
  • USCIS will reject current recipients’ requests to travel outside the U.S. (and refund all associated fees), except in “exceptional circumstances.” USCIS will not terminate any previously approved travel requests.

Potential DACA recipients:

  • USCIS will not accept new DACA applications from undocumented young people who could have qualified for DACA if the administration had reinstated the program as the Supreme Court intended. \
  • USCIS will reject new DACA applications filed after the Supreme Court’s decision and refund all associated fees. If the Trump administration begins to accept new DACA applications, previously rejected applications will not affect potential new applicants.

For a list of organizations that assist DACA recipients with renewals, visit the Home is Here website. Organizations include AFSC, which provides assistance in Newark and Red Bank New Jersey, as well as in Des Moines, Iowa.

4. Ultimately, only legislation–not litigation–can provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients and their families under attack by this administration.

By issuing this memo, the Trump administration has taken another step toward its ultimate goal of dismantling DACA—while jeopardizing the futures of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, their families, and communities. While the Supreme Court decision made it increasingly clear that the law is on our side, we must keep up our efforts to permanently protect DACA recipients and create a roadmap to citizenship for all immigrants.

DACA recipients, undocumented youth, and allies have worked tirelessly to counter the Trump’s administration’s termination of DACA in 2017. More than 10 lawsuits challenging the termination were filed across the country, and multiple judges ruled that the way DACA was terminated was illegal.

It is anticipated that the Trump administration’s new memo will also face legal challenges. However, as we have seen, even favorable court decisions can be undermined—a constant reminder that the courts alone cannot solve this problem. We need legislation that keeps families and communities together.

In June 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act, a bill that would offer a roadmap to citizenship for DACA recipients and others eligible for DACA. The Senate is now considering similar legislation and must follow suit.

Take action today! Tell your senators: Provide permanent protections for DACA recipients and all immigrants—and call for humane immigration policies that respect the rights and dignity of all people.

About the Author

Peniel Ibe is the policy engagement coordinator at AFSC’s Office of Public Policy and Advocacy. She leads AFSC’s advocacy efforts to coordinate grassroots engagement strategies to impact policy change. She is an immigrant from Nigeria who recently relocated to the United States and is advocating for the rights of others like her.

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