New District Court Ruling Refutes Efforts to Rescind the Program
U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled on December 4th, 2020 that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must reinstate the DACA program to its condition before a September 2017 rescinding order from the Trump administration threatened to dismantle the initiative. The court’s argument is built on the conclusion that Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s role was not lawfully obtained, an opinion they made clear in a November 14th, 2020 decision. Therefore, his orders to restrict the DACA program, including his July 2020 memo following the Supreme Court decision in DHS v. Regents of the University of California, were not legitimate and must be disqualified.
Garaufis’s order took immediate effect, and as of December 8th, 2020, DHS has complied with court instructions. Pursuant to the order, DHS has published a public notice declaring that, for the first time since the 2017 rescinding effort began, persons eligible for DACA but not enrolled in the program can now apply for status for the first time. Work permits are now once again valid for 2-year increments, up from the modified 1-year increment that served as another Trump-era restriction. DACA beneficiaries are also now eligible to apply for Advance Parole.
The decision comes off as a relief to many current DACA beneficiaries and immigration advocates. As many as 640,000 immigrants currently benefit from the program, with approximately 300,000 additional immigrants now eligible to apply for the first time. Over the past few years, a number of individuals who otherwise qualified for DACA status under the original and modified rules could not apply due to a freeze on new applications instituted by the Trump administration.
Existing beneficiaries of DACA were also held in limbo as legal challenges moved through the courts. Some were only able to procure 1-year renewal terms, while others were forced to watch their status lapse entirely, imperiling their employment and removal protections in the process. These impacted individuals should now be able to restore their status and receive the standard 2-year work permit term.
The State and Future of the DACA Program
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the formal name for the President Obama-era immigration initiative, has been embattled by legal challenges over the course of its 8+ year existence. This is in part because it is built on a series of executive orders versus a more permanent piece of legislation ratified by Congress. The original intention of the program was to help undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minor children continue to live and work in the country without fear of deportation. Anti-immigration conservatives have objected and insist a permanent legal solution should be found instead.
Indeed, new and forthcoming legal challenges still endanger DACA. Several states controlled by conservative lawmakers and justices have filed challenges that could partially or completely dismantle the program. Earlier in the year, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against President Trump’s outright sunsetting of the program, declaring the method in which he attempted to do so as “arbitrary and capricious.” However, it was heavily hinted that the Trump administration could successfully conclude the program if it did so through more lawfully palatable means.
Should a new case challenging the DACA program’s legality reach the Supreme Court, the replacement of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett may prove pivotal. Justice Barrett’s presence might nullify Chief Justice John Roberts’s moderating and deciding vote that effectively decided the previous challenge.
While President Elect Joe Biden has pledged to restore as much of the DACA program as he is lawfully able to accomplish through his presidential powers, the commit may not mean much if the program – still only built on executive action – is fundamentally terminated by an unfavorable Supreme Court decision.
The only means of permanently protecting DACA beneficiaries, then, is through permanent legislation. Unfortunately, such a law may not make much progress should Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate.
We Can Help You Pursue DACA Status or Renewal
If you are eligible for DACA status, you should consider taking advantage while United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is accepting both renewal requests and first-time applications. Successfully applying for DACA benefits requires an exhaustive level of evidence gathering and paperwork.
Our immigration attorneys at Verma Law Firm have over 15 years of experience and can help you navigate the complex, sometimes overwhelming process. We can help determine if you qualify for DACA, gather the necessary documents, and review your application before submission. Our team can also help you work through any Requests for Evidence you might receive and represent you in any communications you have with USCIS agents. Our goal is to help you efficiently obtain and maintain the DACA benefits that will entitle you to live and work in the United States while enjoying protections from deportation.
If you believe you are eligible for the DACA program and need assistance applying, call (408) 560-4622 or contact us online to speak to a member of our team. We offer payment plans to those who may require financial assistance.