What Is Deferred Action?
Deferred action can be a complicated process, even for eligible immigrants. Keep reading to learn more about deferred action and DACA status in the United States.
Deferred Action: An Overview
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security stated that certain people who come to the United States as children and meet several criteria may request consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or “DACA”) status for a period of two years, subject to renewal. In addition, they are also eligible for work authorization.
Deferred action is a policy that uses prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not, however, provide lawful status.
DACA has faced numerous legal challenges since being implemented by President Barack Obama. Throughout the now-three separate presidencies, this executive-branch-born program has existed. In 2021, the court case Texas v. the United States began. It arose out of a multistate challenge to DACA legality, led by the attorney general of Texas. The Texas federal judge in the case ruled DACA unlawful, concluding that President Obama had exceeded his authority when he created the program. While the recent court ruling does not direct any enforcement actions against current DACA recipients, it does affect future applicants for DACA status and anyone with DACA status that has been expired for more than a year.
What Is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?
Known as DACA for short, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is a United States immigration policy that allows some people to remain and receive a two-year renewable period of deferred action from deportation. It applies to individuals with unlawful presence in the United States brought to the country as children. DACA relies entirely on executive branch non-enforcement and does not provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship for recipients.
Here is an overview of the DACA timeline in the U.S. thus far:
June 2012: Through executive action, DACA was created by President Obama. This followed years of organizing by undocumented immigrant youth, families, and allies.
September 2017: In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would discontinue DACA, putting hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families at risk.
June 2020: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA was “arbitrary and capricious”—a violation of federal law. However, this ruling did preserve DACA status for recipients and allowed them to continue living and working in the U.S. without being targeted for detention or deportation.
The Supreme Court decision did not address whether the creation of DACA was lawful. As a result, that left the door open for the Trump administration to attempt to terminate DACA through other legal rationales and at various levels.
July 2020: The Trump administration issued a memo to dismantle the DACA program. In addition, it refused to accept new applications and limited the renewal periods for current recipients.
December 2020: A federal judge in New York ordered to restore DACA, reversing the Trump administration’s memo fully. The U.S. government has since reopened the DACA program to first-time applicants, allowing an estimated 81,000 undocumented immigrants to enroll. In addition, the government returned the renewal period for DACA recipients to two years and reinstated advanced parole.
Just like the Supreme Court decision, this decision was narrow. It continued to not weigh in on whether the creation of DACA was lawful.
July 2021: The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas held that the DACA policy “is illegal,” issuing a permanent injunction prohibiting the government’s continued administration of DACA and the reimplementation of DACA without compliance with proper rulemaking procedures. However, the Court temporarily kept its order vacating the DACA memorandum and injunction concerning individuals who obtained DACA status on or before July 16, 2021, accounting for those with renewal requests pending review.
According to the July order, DHS is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization. However, DHS may continue to grant or deny DACA renewal requests in conformance with its existing policies.
For more information about the DACA timeline in the United States, reach out to an experienced DACA immigration lawyer today.
DACA Eligibility Requirements
An individual may request DACA if they meet the following requirements:
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
- Came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday
- Were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time they requested consideration of deferred action with USCIS
- Are currently in school, graduated high school, obtained a GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran
- Have not been convicted of a felony, three or more misdemeanors (or one significant misdemeanor), and do not pose a threat to public safety or national security
The Southern District Court of Texas’ decision allows the Department of Homeland Security to continue to accept both initial and renewal DACA requests, as well as accompanying requests for employment authorization. It just does not allow the agency to grant the requests.
However, DHS may grant renewal applications, which continue to be handled by DHS per established policies, consistent with the Texas federal court’s order, and pending any further legal developments.
Speak to a DACA Immigration Lawyer in Houston
DACA continues to be challenged in the courts to this day, so speaking with a competent immigration attorney for the latest status is a wise decision. If you need help understanding or applying for protection under DACA, trust the Houston immigration attorneys at Lamb & Turner PLLC. We have years of experience with federal and state immigration law and are here to serve you.