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History of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the DREAM Act in 2001, which would create a process for immigrants to apply for conditional residency, leading to permanent residency, based on the time of entry in the United States, according to Georgetown Law. The act failed to pass despite several introductions.

President Obama initiated the immigration policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in response to the failure of the DREAM Act. The Department of Homeland Security announced on June 15, 2012 that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines can request consideration of deferred action, which lasts for a period of two years. The requests can be renewed but do not grant lawful permanent residence in the United States.

Since the creation of DACA, 3,030,812 request forms have been sent in and 2,893,450 have been approved, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Former President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 15, 2012. Official White House photo

Guidelines for DACA:

  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;

  • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday

  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time

  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS

  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012, meaning that:

  • You never had a lawful immigration status on or before June 15, 2012, or

  • Any lawful immigration status or parole that you obtained prior to June 15, 2012, had expired as of June 15, 2012;

  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and

  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

DACA Under Fire

The Trump administration announced in 2017 a plan to phase out DACA, according to a White House daily briefing.

“There is a misconception that DACA primarily serves as a shield from deportation,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House Press Secretary.

However, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 decision on June 18, 2020 finding that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The DACA policy was ordered to be restored by the United States District Court on November 14, 2020, according to the United States of Homeland Security.

On January 20, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to take appropriate action to preserve and fortify DACA.

“DACA reflects a judgement that these immigrants should not be a priority for removal based on humanitarian concerns and other considerations, and that work authorization will enable them to support themselves and their families, and to contribute to our economy, while they remain,” wrote Biden in a memorandum.

According to Pew Research Center, 74% of Americans favor a law that would provide permanent legal status to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. without documentation as children.

Additional Resources

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