DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
A federal district court in New York ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. The federal court ruled on November 14, 2020 that DHS unlawfully issued its July 28, 2020 memorandum that limited the program by directing USCIS to (1) reject all initial requests, reject DACA advance parole requests unless there were “exceptional circumstances” and (3) limit DACA renewals to 1 year rather than 2 years. The federal court held that the July 2020 memorandum was invalid because Chad Wolf was not lawfully serving as Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, so he had no authority to issue it.
On December 4, 2020, the federal court formally vacated the July 2020 memo and ordered DHS to announce on its websites that it will accept initial DACA requests, renewal requests, and advance parole requests and that DACA and work permits granted for only 1 year are automatically extended to 2 years.
Still, DACA continues to be threatened as there is ongoing litigation surrounding the program. While the government has been ordered to fully restore DACA, there may be a limited window of opportunity to apply. We anticipate further developments regarding the DACA program and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Here is what you need to know:
(1) USCIS is currently accepting initial (first-time) DACA requests for individuals who have never had DACA before.
- Those who may be eligible for DACA should consult with a trusted immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative for individualized advice. There may be a limited window of opportunity to apply. The associated application fee is $495.
- Applicants will need to provide evidence that they meet the following DACA eligibility guidelines:
- Entered the United States before 16th birthday
- Continuously resided in the United States since at least June 15, 2007, until the present
- Physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, without lawful status
- Under 31 years old on June 15, 2012 (born after 06/15/1981)
- Currently in school, or graduated from high school, or obtained a GED, or honorably discharged from the U.S. armed forces or coast guard
- Pass a criminal background check
- Must be at least 15 years old to apply (unless in removal proceedings or previously ordered deported).
(2) USCIS continues to accept DACA renewal requests for individuals who currently have DACA or have ever had DACA in the past.
- Those who may be eligible for DACA renewal should consult with a trusted immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative for individualized advice. There may be a limited window of opportunity to apply for renewal. The associated application fee is $495.
- Under the new federal court order, DACA and work authorization will issued be for a 2-year period (instead of a 1-year period under the unlawful July 2020 memo)
- Renewal applicants should generally file their renewal request between 150 and 120 days before their current grant of DACA expires. USCIS may reject requests received more than 150 days before the current grant of DACA expires.
(3) DACA authorizations and work permits issued for a 1-year period are automatically extended to 2 years.
- If you were granted DACA and work authorization for only 1 year under the unlawful July 2020 memo, the court order automatically extended your DACA and work permit to 2 years.
- USICS has announced on its website that it “will take appropriate steps” to provide evidence of the extension of DACA and work permits that were issued for only 1 year. It is not yet clear what specific actions USCIS will take.
- If you were granted DACA and work authorization for 2 years under the policy that was in place prior to the July 2020 memo, the new federal court order will not affect your current DACA and work permit.
(4) USCIS is currently accepting Advance Parole (international travel permit) applications for individuals with DACA.
- Those who are considering applying for Advance Parole should consult with a trusted immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative before making the decision to apply and before traveling outside the United States even if Advance Parole is granted.
- Advance parole may be granted to DACA recipients for humanitarian, educational, and employment reasons.
(5) Please beware of notarios and always seek assistance from a reputable immigration attorney or DOJ accredited representative.
(6) We must continue to pressure Congress to pass a Dream Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 18, 2020 that the Trump Administration's termination of DACA was unlawful, and 4th Circuit's mandate on June 30, 2020, should have resulted in USCIS fully restoring DACA, including that USCIS again process initial DACA requests and advance parole applications. However, DHS rebuked the courts and unlawfully tried to limit DACA with its July 2020 memo and subsequent USCIS memorandum released on August 21, 2020 explaining in more detail how the July 2020 memo would be implemented. The federal court order issued in New York on November 14, 2020 concluded that the July 2020 Memo was unlawfully issued, and the December 4, 2020 order made explicitly clear that DACA must be fully reinstated.
You may contact the Equal Justice Center to seek assistance with your DACA case by calling our toll-free hotline at 888.670.6854 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions about the DACA program or your DACA work permit, or if you need assistance applying for a replacement work permit, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Last Updated: 12/8/2020
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