For those of you affected by DACA, times are tense and uncertain. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the current state of this important program and we get a lot of questions about what’s really happening to it.
Here on the Dallas Immigration Lawyers Blog, we’re going to break it down for you; the good, the bad, the ugly, the true, and what it all means for you.
WHAT IS DACA?
First, let’s start with a little rundown of what DACA really is. You may already know some of this from first-hand experience with the program but some of the details and history are fuzzy, even to those who have used it.
The Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program (DACA) was created in 2012 when then- President Obama signed an executive order. An executive order simply means that the President created the law (rather than Congress) and literally ordered it to happen.
The program itself was specifically designed to protect children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. Migrants who met the minimum qualifications could request temporary protection from their pending deportation. In other words, their deportation would be deferred, or delayed, for two years. Once the first deferment term expired, they could reapply for one more.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of controversy surrounding this executive order. A lot of people have argued that it was an illegal use of presidential power. Basically, there are claims that it wasn’t the president’s place to create a law affecting immigration because Congress is supposed to do that. Nothing ever came of those accusations but they’re important to understanding what’s happening to DACA today (which we’ll discuss in just a moment). Nonetheless, the DACA program was successfully initiated in June of 2012, thrived under the Obama administration and, to date, has protected roughly 700,000 immigrant children from deportation. Arguably, it prevented tens of thousands of families, just like yours, from being ripped apart or forced into very difficult decisions.
WHAT IS THE DREAM ACT?
Adding to the misunderstandings surrounding DACA is the fact that it’s often confused with the DREAM Act.
DACA was designed to be a temporary solution for the many child immigrants who have created a life here in America. The DREAM Act, on the other hand, would be a more permanent solution and would help a broader range of migrants. The problem is that Congress can’t seem to get it passed.
The DREAM Act, legally known as The Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act, has been debated in Congress since 2001. It’s been discussed, proposed, amended, voted on, and reintroduced multiple times since then. In order to pass, it has to get 60% of the Senate votes – but every version of the Act has failed to get the required number of votes needed. You may have even followed this whole process more than once in the past.
What DREAM would do is provide certain immigrants with Conditional Permanent Resident Status. In order words, you could receive permanent approval to stay in the country legally IF you met certain qualifications, such as completing high school and either serving in the military or attending at least some form of college of trade school. The point is that instead of granting a way to temporarily avoid deportation, like DACA does, the DREAM Act would provide a clear path to a better and more permanent life in the United States.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW? – A BRIEF JUDICIAL HISTORY
Here comes the tricky part.
In September of 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the DACA program was going to be phased out. Contrary to popular belief, the program didn’t just suddenly end. During his announcement, President Trump gave Congress until March 5, 2018, to pass the DREAM Act, which meant that the DACA program would end on March 6, 2018. Basically, September was just a 6-month warning.
That meant that as of September 2017 no more new DACA applications would be taken. BUT those currently residing in the country under the DACA program would have their deferments honored until their scheduled 2-year deadline. So, that meant that if your last DACA approval was good through May of 2018, for example, then you would be safe until then but you wouldn’t have the option to renew with the program after that.
Don’t lose hope, though. We’re not done yet.
Last month, a federal judge in California issued what’s called an injunction. That means that they overruled Trump’s decision to wind-down DACA and made it possible for current DACA participants to reapply at the end of their 2-year period – even if it’s after March 6th. The government still isn’t accepting any new applications but those who already have the protection will have the chance to try and renew.
Now, the courts have to decide if the President has the power to create or end the DACA program and determine what should happen next. Meanwhile, Congress is supposed to continue to try and pass a more permanent law, like the DREAM Act.
So, even though Trump’s March 5th deadline is upon us, and Congress is nowhere close to coming to an agreement, DACA will continue to hang on; at least in part. If you’re currently protected under the program, you will have a chance to renew. The good news is that the court battle over DACA could go on for months, or even years. This gives Congress more time to try and pass the DREAM Act and gives us all a reason to hope that a solution will be met.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
We told you from the beginning that we would be honest because we believe in the beauty and power of knowledge and truth. DACA is a complex and controversial program and its future is definitely uncertain.
If you or a loved one is currently protected under the DACA program, intended to apply but never got the chance, or are unsure of what your options are, it’s imperative that you seek legal guidance.
Our firm has over 20 years of experience helping immigrants throughout the state of Texas and we’ve made it our mission to stay up-to-date on all of the DACA developments as they unfold. We can help you to understand your rights and options and find solutions that fit your families’ hopes, goals, and dreams.
In the midst of all this uncertainty, you absolutely need professional help in order to protect you and your family. Give our law firm a call today.