The Next Steps for the DACA Program — What to Expect

As reported last week, a Texas federal judge’s ruling that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was illegally created has left tens of thousands of young people in limbo.  The ruling bars USCIS from processing new DACA applications, though permits the renewal of existing applications.  USCIS reports that the agency had 90,000 pending applications for first-time DACA relief. As a result, the agency issued new guidance for DACA holders and pending applicants. The guidance clarifies USCIS will continue to accept the filing of both initial and renewal DACA requests. However, USCIS is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization.  

The federal court ruling increases pressure on Democrats to find a permanent legislative solution for immigrant youth. Congressional Democrats have pledged to include relief in the budget reconciliation proposal, but with slim margins of control in the House and Senate, Democrats have no room for error.  President Biden met with Members of Congress on July 29, to discuss plans for a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth.

Public pressure to pass relief for immigrant youth has also intensified since the ruling. On July 29, prominent CEOs sent a letter to President Biden and members of Congress urging them to pass a law offering a path to citizenship for immigrant youth. The letter states, “securing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers not only is the right thing to do, but is a huge economic benefit to the United States.” 

Although the DACA program has bipartisan support, many Republicans oppose relief for immigrant youth, with many seeing it as politically advantageous to oppose DACA.  A Fox News article highlighting the decision by House Democrats to allow DACA recipients to work as Congressional staffers is an example of the concerns that many Republicans continue to have.