DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients have been in limbo and at the center of various political debates ever since President Donald Trump attempted to end the program in 2017. Put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012, DACA protects from deportation individuals who were brought to the United States by their parents as undocumented children. Individuals who have received DACA protection are granted work authorization, but currently have no pathway to lawful permanent residence in the United States. The 800,000 DACA recipients are known as “Dreamers,” and are generally considered to be model residents of the United States.
Litigation was initiated in various federal courts in 2017 as soon as the Trump Administration announced the program termination. Injunctions were issued preventing the Administration from terminating the program and DHS was ordered to continue to renew DACA registrations and employment authorization documents for individuals who were already DACA beneficiaries. The Administration has filed appeals and tried to convince the Supreme Court to review the case in an expedited manner. The Supreme Court twice declined to do so but has now decided to review the DACA issue during its next October term. A decision is anticipated sometime in 2020.
The Supreme Court has consolidated two other cases with DHS v. Regents of the University of California: Trump v. NAACP and McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal. The Court will decide whether 1) the decision to wind down the program is reviewable and, if so 2) whether the decision was lawful. One DACA case in Texas found that DACA was likely not legal because its enactment went beyond executive authority. However, in that case, the judge decided not to enter the fray and did not issue any injunction. Now it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide which of the federal courts is “right,” and the Texas case might forecast how a now more conservative Supreme Court could rule.
In the meantime, the pressure will be on Congress to take legislative action to protect the Dreamers before the Supreme Court issues a decision, and as the election season heats up. If Congress acts on time, the Supreme Court consideration of whether the decision to end the program was lawful would be moot. There have been various attempts at legislation that would grant permanent residence and a path the citizenship for the Dreamers. As recently as June 5, 2019 the House passed such a bill (the Dream and Promise Act), but it is unlikely to be taken up by the Senate in its current form.
Current DACA beneficiaries should continue to renew their statuses as soon as possible.