DACA: What’s Going On Right Now?

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the Trump administration’s September 2017 decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After four months,  we are still waiting for a decision (opinion) to be issued.

All opinions of the Court are, typically, handed down by the last day of the Court’s term (the day in late June/early July when the Court recesses for the summer). With the exception of this deadline, there are no rules concerning when decisions must be released. Typically, decisions that are unanimous are released sooner than those that have concurring and dissenting opinions. While some unanimous decisions are handed down as early as December, some controversial opinions, even if heard in October, may not be handed down until the last day of the term.

This means it could still be another three to four months before a decision is made by the Court, or we could get a decision any day now.

A Brief History of DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also referred to as “DACA,” was a program enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012 and then expanded through a presidential decree in 2014.

DACA itself does not provide a direct pathway towards citizenship and is only a deferment of deportation for individuals who qualify, with renewable two year periods. Those who qualify entered the US before their 16thbirthday, were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, have continually resided in the US since June 15, 2007, were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 and had no lawful status, are currently in school or graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and do not have certain disqualifying criminal convictions.

DACA also allows an eligible applicant to apply for and receive employment authorizationas well.

Since September 2017 when President Trump rescinded DACA, those who already had DACA status have been able to continue to renew their status. Unfortunately at this time those who did not already have DACA are now unable to submit an initial application to receive the benefit.

What should I do now?

If you are a current DACA holder, you should consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to explore any other immigration options that are available to you.  With a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, DACA is strongly predicted to be struck down as unconstitutional once a decision is made by the court.  It is unknown what would happen with DACA holders if/when that happens, if they’ll immediately lose their status and begin to accrue unlawful presence or if that would start once their current DACA stay expires.  Regardless, if you currently have DACA, investigating your immigration options now, while you still have status, is in your best interest.

While various legislators have introduced some form of the Dream Act since 2008, there is still no law on the books that would protect you from being deported if the DACA program is ended abruptly.  Educating yourself and understanding your legal rights and options is crucial should this occur.

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