The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was enacted during the Obama administration in 2012 under enforcement and prosecutorial discretion of the Executive Branch. Soon after, many Republicans would go argue that the enactment of such a program is an unconstitutional overreach of the Executive.
Over its existence, DACA has seen many challenges in many U.S. Courts. But its greatest challenge yet came in September 2017 when the former president ordered to end DACA by stopping taking new applications. And it would be two years until the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on this issue, ordering the previous administration to refrain from ending DACA mid-2020. This would not be the last effort of the administration to end the program. On July 28, 2020, Chad Wolf, who was not yet Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, had issue a memorandum in which the DHS would reject all initial requests for DACA.
On December 4, 2020, U.S District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the Trump administration to reinstate DACA in full, which would had allowed applications received prior to November 14, 2020 to be admitted for consideration for protection under DACA.
By June 30, 2021, despite DACA being , the number of Dreamers protected under DACA had decreased by 3% since December 2020, bringing the number of Dreamers under DACA to around 616,000. Currently, USCIS has a backlog of more than 55,000 unprocessed application from first time applicants, a significant number of these applications were submitted in 2020.
Although it is evident that most Democrats in Congress support creating legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers, any kind of legislation that would benefit Dreamers long term is unlikely to pass in the current Congress, where Democrats have a slim majority in the House, and with the Senate split down the middle. In addition, Republicans in the Senate are sure to use the filibuster to vote down on any legislation, even if all the Democrats vote in favor, including the Vice President.
In the first three months of the Biden-Harris administration, barely 800 first time applicants were approved for DACA. USCIS attributes these delays to biometric appointments, which are required for first time applicants. Despite being vocal in calling out for legislation to provide Dreamers with legal status, the Biden-Harris administration at this point, has no urgency in pressuring the USCIS administration to expedite the processing of these applications as The future of DACA depends on the decision of U.S District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas. This is a continuation of a lawsuit challenging the legality of DACA brought forth by Texas AG Ken Paxton and other predominantly conservative states who argue that although the Executive has discretion in allocating resources for removal of undocumented aliens, it does not grant the executive the right to provide a lawful status for undocumented immigrants regardless of their age upon arrival. The coalition of states has requested Judge Hanen to either bar new applicants and renewals, or to delay an order suspending the program for two years all together. With this, it has become a matter of urgency for many Dreamers and their families that USCIS starts prioritizing DACA applications.
Ensuring the survival of DACA and providing a path to citizenship for dreamers is not only a matter of doing the right things, but it is also in economic interest of the United States. Many would-be DACA recipients rely on this program to be able to obtain social security cards, work permits, and drivers licenses, which in many cases are inaccessible to undocumented immigrants in many states across the country, some which are often needed to obtain gainful employment in their respective fields of study. Many of which, could use their talents and abilities to contribute to this country in innumerable meaningful ways; in STEMS, representing this country in international sports events, entrepreneurship and creating more jobs and industries, etc. With providing Dreamers permanent legal status, we would be adding millions of people who would pay taxes, including social security, and help replace an aging population.
If no changes are promptly made to accelerate the processing of these application, many DACA recipients may continue to lose any protection they currently enjoy, and many new applicants may be left with no prospects for their future and without the ability to properly contribute to our society. It would be a loss to the millions of Dreamers and to the United States.