On September 5, 2017, Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), issued a memorandum rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The DACA program, instituted in 2012 under the Obama administration, defers deportation and provides work authorization for individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who pass criminal and national security background checks. The DACA program was designed to assist individuals who were raised in the United States but who do not possess lawful status in the United States. These individuals are often referred to as “Dreamers.”
Citing a recent 4-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in effect allowed a lower court injunction of a program providing similar relief for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to stand, the Trump Administration determined that the DACA program should end on March 5, 2018. Effectively, this provides Congress with six months to provide a legislative solution for the nearly 800,000 individuals impacted by the DACA program rescission.
For individuals eligible or currently enrolled in the DACA program, this will have the following impact:
- Currently valid DACA benefits, including Employment Authorization Documents (“EAD”s) and Advance Parole documents (I-131 applications, authorizing beneficiaries of DACA to travel) will remain valid until their expiration. These documents remain subject to termination or revocation under the existing DACA program rules.
- No new DACA applications (I-821D applications) will be accepted as of September 6, 2017.
- Currently pending initial DACA applications and extensions will be adjudicated.
- USCIS will not accept any new advance parole applications where the basis of that application is an approved I-821D.
- Currently pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed, and I-131 filing fees will be refunded.
- Individuals whose DACA benefits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 will be allowed to file an extension of their DACA benefits until October 5, 2017. If approved, we anticipate that extensions will be valid for two years, and not end on March 5.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”, the agency that oversees administration of the DACA program) will not affirmatively provide information regarding DACA recipients to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”, the agency in charge of interior immigration law enforcement) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”, the agency in charge of border security) unless the DACA recipient meets existing deportation enforcement guidelines.
Once an individual’s DACA benefits expire, that individual will no longer have work authorization, and his or her deportation will no longer be deferred. This does not mean that individual will be automatically deported by ICE. However, it does mean that the individual will no longer be protected from deportation. In essence, without congressional action, Dreamers will once again become subject to potential removal from the United States.
A lawsuit has already been filed challenging the DACA program’s termination. It is hard to know whether the case will succeed, however. In the meantime, Dreamers plan to press Congress to pass a legislative solution before March 5.