Absent congressional action, the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the DACA program will end the work authorization of DACA beneficiaries.
In a decision announced earlier today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration rescinded the memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Concurrently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin a six-month winding-down of the DACA program, which was created in 2012 and through which approximately 800,000 beneficiaries have qualified for employment authorization in the United States.
According to today’s announcements, effective immediately USCIS will no longer accept new or initial applications for DACA benefits, which includes renewable two-year work permits. Applications already received and awaiting adjudication will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Individuals who have work permits that will expire prior to March 5, 2018 may file for a two-year extension of their current work authorizations, provided that they do so by October 5, 2017. Individuals with work permits set to expire after March 5, 2018 will not be permitted to extend their employment authorizations and will lose employment eligibility when their current permits expire. Accordingly, all DACA beneficiaries will be without employment authorization by March 5, 2020.
Former US President Barack Obama announced the creation of DACA in June 2012 to remove the threat of deportation for and to provide temporary employment authorization to individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who either entered unlawfully or overstayed their periods of admission. Eligibility for DACA benefits was available to any individual who at the time could show that he or she
- was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- came to the United States before reaching his/her 16th birthday;
- had continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 through the present time;
- was physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time of making his/her request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
- was currently in school, had graduated, or had obtained a certificate of completion from high school, had obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or was an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- had not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and did not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
At the time, the Obama administration described the implementation of DACA as a response to congressional failure to pass the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to residency and citizenship for eligible individuals. Proponents of the DACA policy described it as a legitimate exercise of executive branch prosecutorial discretion. Critics described DACA as an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority. The decision by the Trump administration to rescind and wind down DACA now shifts attention back to Congress, where debate concerning so-called “Dreamers” is already part of a larger discussion involving overall immigration limits, the border wall, E-Verify, and other immigration-related issues. Whether Congress will create and pass legislation that provides for continued employment eligibility for DACA beneficiaries is uncertain, as is the question of whether President Donald Trump would sign any such legislation.
What Employers Need to Know
Individuals who have employment authorization based on DACA benefits remain employment authorized until the expiration of their employment authorization documents (EAD). Employers who properly completed Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, at the time of hire will have on file for any DACA beneficiaries the Form I-9 wherein Section 1 indicates that the employee has temporary employment eligibility that expires on the indicated date. As with any other employee who indicates that s/he is a foreign national with temporary employment eligibility, the employer is under an obligation to reverify that individual’s employment authorization by completing Section 3 of Form I-9 in accordance with the guidance in the USCIS Handbook for Employers M-274. Individuals who are unable to provide evidence of their continued employment eligibility may no longer be employed.
Employers are not required to take any other preemptive action with respect to employees who are DACA beneficiaries as their employment authorization continues through the validity date of their EADs, nor should they take additional or adverse action. However, for purposes of planning and contingencies, employers may wish to determine who among their workforce is currently employed pursuant to DACA benefits by reviewing Forms I-9 already on file and photocopies already on file of any EAD that was presented and photocopied at the time of Form I-9 completion. An individual whose work authorization is based on DACA benefits will have an EAD that reflects employment eligibility based on Category C33. As a general rule, employers should not take additional measures to affirmatively identify DACA beneficiaries in their workforce, and should consult employment or immigration counsel to address any questions or concerns in this regard.
In addition, DACA beneficiaries who previously received Advance Parole documents that permitted international travel should consult with counsel prior to using a facially valid Advance Parole document for travel. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) retains the authority to determine the admissibility of any person presenting at the border. Further, USCIS may terminate or revoke Advance Parole at any time.