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Understanding Recent DACA Ruling Halting Approvals of New DACA Applications

On Friday July 16, 2021 federal Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional due to the fact that it was created through executive action rather than through legislation. Judge Hanen ruled that USCIS can no longer grant DACA to new applicants. This ruling has jeopardized the future of hundreds of thousands of innocent young beneficiaries, commonly known as “Dreamers.” The future of DACA is now up to the federal courts of appeals.

What is DACA?

DACA stands for ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.’ It is an initiative created through executive action within the Obama administration in 2012 that currently protects from deportation an estimated 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16. DACA is valid for only two years at a time. It does not renew automatically, therefore, DACA recipients have to apply to renew their DACA status every 2 years. In addition to protection against deportation, DACA provides employment authorization and ability to obtain a social security number. Unfortunately, DACA does not lead to a green card or citizenship.

What Does The Recent Court Decision Mean If You Currently Have DACA?

If you currently have DACA, your status is still valid. Initial applications that are already granted and applications for DACA renewals will continue to be valid for now. The only people immediately affected by the court decision are people requesting initial grants of DACA. Therefore, if your DACA expires soon make sure to renew it as soon as possible, as these applications are still being accepted and approved.

What Does The Recent Court Decision Mean If You Have A DACA Request Still Processing?

If you have a first-time initial DACA request at USCIS, DHS cannot approve your application pursuant to Judge Hanen’s recent ruling. If your application for an initial grant of DACA was pending at USCIS and not yet granted, then your filing will be frozen and will not be processed until further notice. DACA renewal applications will not be affected and will continue regular processing.

What is The Future of DACA?

All is not lost for DACA yet, it is up to Congress to step up and save the program by passing legislation encoding it as federal law and finally create a solid pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. President Joe Biden has highlighted immigration reform as one of his administration's top priorities. Within his first days of presidency he introduced a bill, the American Dream and Promise Act 2021, that would provide a pathway to citizenship to DACA recipients, and other undocumented immigrants. Since then, other bills have been introduced, but legislation efforts face an uncertain future in the Senate.

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