What is DACA and Who Are Dreamers?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was initiated in 2012 by former President Barack Obama as a measure to protect “Dreamers” – the nearly one million undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children. The DACA program protects Dreamers from being deported, many to countries they have never resided in or speak the language, and allows them to obtain a social security number, driver’s license and work permits.

DACA was developed as a temporary program to provide protection until Congress passed permanent legislation, though as of 2022 Congress has not done so. However, the DACA program, and by extension, Dreamers, has dealt with political upheavals in recent years, bringing into question whether Dreamers will remain protected.

In 2017, former President Donald Trump terminated the program, stating Obama’s executive decision was unconstitutional and that DACA skirts immigration laws, sparking state and federal lawsuits arguing the program’s legality. In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Trump’s termination of the program arbitrary and reinstated it.

During his presidential campaign, President Joe Biden vowed to certify Dreamers immediately upon taking office, which would allow them to remain in the United States and seek citizenship. The Biden Administration was forced to shutter DACA after Southern District of Texas Judge Andrew Hanen ruled the program illegal, noting proper requirements were not followed at the program’s inception, a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Texas court ruling allowed two-year renewal options for current DACA participants but ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to no longer accept new applications. In early October 2022, the 5th Court of Appeals declared the DACA program illegal, affirming a previous ruling, threatening the status of over 600,000 program recipients across the country.

DACA Final Rule

On October 31, 2022, DHS rescinded and replaced the 2012 DACA memo with the DACA Rule, making DACA based on a formal regulation rather than executive decision in order to preserve the program. The DACA Rule codifies existing policy and affirms:

  • The United States will continue to recognize current DACA recipients’ deferred action, employment authorization and advance parole as valid
  • DACA recipients will be considered “lawfully present,” however DACA is not considered a form of lawful status

Under the rule, current DACA recipients or those who had it the past year are allowed to file for two-year renewals and work permits. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new applications but cannot process or grant them due to ongoing litigation. The rule further states that DACA recipients whose grant expired more than one year ago will now be considered first-time applicants rather than renewals, meaning these applications will also be held until litigation is complete.

Additionally, the 2022 DACA Rule states that expunged convictions, juvenile delinquency adjudications and convictions for immigration-related offenses under state laws are not considered disqualifying conditions.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist DACA Recipients with Maintaining Status

If you are a DACA recipient whose grant is nearing expiration, the experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. will help you through the renewal process. Call us today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.