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Supreme Court Extends DACA a Limited Lifeline

Existing DACA Recipients Can File for Renewal for Now

Many conservative lawmakers have long opposed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, since its implementation by President Obama in 2012. The program has helped hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children remain and work in the country despite their status. However, DACA has been met with frequent legal challenges, including one that crushed a 2014 effort from the Obama administration to expand the program’s narrow eligibility requirements. The failed expansion did not impact current DACA recipients, who continued to be protected from deportation proceedings.

Opposition to DACA continued to mount, resulting in President Trump declaring his intention to wind down and effectively end the program in 2017. This move immediately halted any further application or renewal processing, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped accepting new submissions. Existing DACA beneficiaries only remained safe through the length of their current term but were unable to apply for a renewal, meaning they could potentially face removal proceedings once their current status expired. The Trump administration called for Congress to pass a more permanent legislative solution protecting DACA-eligible immigrants, setting a six-month grace period for them to act. The Republican-controlled Legislative Branch failed to produce a solution, leaving DACA recipients in limbo.

Legal challenges to the Trump administration’s DACA shutdown effort gave beneficiaries a reprieve and prevented any immediate removal efforts. The conflict reached the Supreme Court in November of 2019, though a decision was not delivered until June 18, 2020.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court decided against the Trump administration, calling its means of ending DACA “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore in violation of federal rules governing administrative procedures. DACA was partially restored in the process, with existing recipients now able to file for renewals to their status, even if they expired during the litigation period. The USCIS is not presently accepting new applications, nor has it given any indication of when – or even if – they plan to do so. International travel is also not recommended at this time. DACA recipients will NOT be able to reenter the country.

While the Supreme Court decision is encouraging in that it gives existing DACA beneficiaries the opportunity to continue living and working in the country, the ruling also opened the door to further action. Chief Justice John Roberts voted with his liberal colleagues and penned the majority opinion, in which he emphasized the Court was only ruling on the legitimacy of President Trump’s approach to ending DACA in this instance. They were not ruling on the fundamental legality of the DACA, and, in fact, proposed the Trump administration could elect to attempt a new shutdown through executive action.

This means the Trump administration, or any future administration, could attempt to dismantle DACA again. While unpleasant to consider, this introduces the possibility that renewal of status processing could be halted at any moment. Some have noted the USCIS’s reluctance to specify its intention to accept new applications may point to an imminent shutdown effort. Others have suggested President Trump may choose to hold off, as his initial DACA actions were met with bipartisan criticism. A fresh run at ending DACA could potentially harm his reelection chances.

Regardless, DACA beneficiaries remain vulnerable to executive action now and in the future. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has expressed his explicit support for DACA, meaning its immediate future may rest on the forthcoming November election. Biden has noted his interest in exploring a permanent legislative solution, which is the only way the program and its recipients can be protected from future executive actions.

Let Experienced Attorneys Help You with DACA

Since DACA could see another renewal processing freeze at any time, it is critical you file as soon as possible to ensure the safety of your status. Our immigration attorneys at Nathan Christensen P.C. are committed to helping our clients understand all of their options and can act with the expedience your case deserves, especially in these turbulent times. We understand how overwhelming, stressful, and confusing the DACA process can be, and we want to do everything we can to advocate for your future in the United States. We can assist in the preparation of your renewal documents, administrate your renewal effort, and represent you in immigration court.

Common mistakes on DACA renewal documents can lead to devastating delays. Our immigration lawyers can help you avoid errors and provide services in English and Spanish. Call (972) 497-1017 or contact us online to request a consultation.

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