On September 27, 2021, the Biden Administration proposed a rule that would “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed undocumented young adults who arrived in the United States as children to legally work in the country without fear of deportation.
However, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that only Congress has the power to provide Dreamers with legal status and a pathway to citizenship.
The proposed rule ensures that Dreamers are not a priority for deportation, as announced in the 2012 Napolitano Memorandum and according to consistent judgment by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as three past U.S. presidents. The proposal will undergo a 60-day public comment period.
Since 2012, the Obama-era program has protected some 700,000 “Dreamers,” or DACA recipients. In order to be eligible for DACA, you must have been younger than 16 years old when you arrived in the U.S., continuously lived in the country for five years, have a high-school diploma or equivalent, have no felony or serious criminal convictions on your record, and meet other requirements.
For years, court rulings and administrative hearings have been canceled, reinstated, and partly rolled back the Obama-era program. President Donald Trump tried to end DACA in 2017, while several states have challenged the legality of the program.
In July, a Texas federal judge ruled that DACA was illegal by claiming President Barack Obama created the program through executive action in 2012, instead of taking the proper steps based on the Administrative Procedure Act. The ruling has blocked DHS from accepting new applications, although current beneficiaries are still allowed to renew their protections.
Democrats attempted to include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and millions of other undocumented immigrants in the $3.5-trillion budget bill, but the Senate parliamentarian ruled against those immigration provisions. However, Democrats have alternative plans, including updating the immigration registry process, which provides permanent legal residency to immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for decades.