USCIS Rejects Initial DACA Applications; Reduces Extensions to 1 year

It is no secret that the Trump administration has been particularly ruthless towards migrant children. The latest example of this behavior is its move to end deferred action. The Deferred Action for Migrant Children Program (DACA) was introduced in 2012 by the Obama administration. The purpose of this program was to facilitate migrant children, because they did not have a say in their parent’s/ guardian’s decision to migrate and because they have grown up in the country, not in the country of their parents.

Requirements for Deferred Action under DACA

Deferred action under DACA has specific requirements. Those applicants that meet all the requirements receive differed action and employment authorization for a certain time. These requirements include:

  • Graduation from high school, enrollment in school, a general education development (GED) certificate, or honorable discharge from the Armed forces or Coast Guard
  • No criminal record – felony, significant misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors – and not a safety or security threat
  • Continuous residence in the US since June 15, 2007, to present
  • Physical presence in the US on June 15, 2012, and when applying for deferred action with USCIS
  • Arrival in the US before the age of 16

Besides the conditions for education, behavior, and childhood arrivals mentioned above, there are also other age and status-related requirements that an applicant needs to meet for DACA renewal or approval.

Requirements for Deferred Action under DACA

Deferred action under DACA has specific requirements. Those applicants that meet all the requirements receive differed action and employment authorization for a certain time. These requirements include:

  • Graduation from high school, enrollment in school, a general education development (GED) certificate, or honorable discharge from the Armed forces or Coast Guard
  • No criminal record – felony, significant misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors – and not a safety or security threat
  • Continuous residence in the US since June 15, 2007, to present
  • Physical presence in the US on June 15, 2012, and when applying for deferred action with USCIS
  • Arrival in the US before the age of 16

Besides the conditions for education, behavior, and childhood arrivals mentioned above, there are also other age and status-related requirements that an applicant needs to meet for DACA renewal or approval.

The Court Ruling and Reaction to The Ruling

Despite clear criteria for deferred action, the Trump administration continues to want to eliminate the program altogether. In 2017, it rescinded DACA, but in June 2020, the Supreme Court blocked the move. The reasoning provided to the Supreme Court for rescinding DACA comes from a federal court decision in Texas Vs. the United States. The ruling, in that case, is that DACA recipients can be denied benefits they are entitled to under the law. According to The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), since DACA recipients can be denied work authorization, Medicare, and other legal benefits, they have no right to reside in the country and can be deported.

The Supreme Court stopped the recension of DACA in a 5-4 decision. Writing in the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the wisdom of whether DACA is a good policy or not is not their concern. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” he added. The decision, while narrow in the margin, indicates that the DHS’s attempt to end DACA lacks merit.

As expected, the Supreme Court’s decision was not well received by the president, who took to Twitter to show his anger, calling the decision “horrible & politically charged.” He also announced his intentions of retrying, stating: “We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfill the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday.”

In a memo released in July, Homeland Security’s acting secretary Chad F. Wolf said that “the DACA policy, at a minimum, presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission.” He also writes that careful consideration will be needed to fully rescind DACA. While Wolf stopped short of supporting the elimination of the program, the policies given in the memo indicate what immigration applicants can expect in the coming days and weeks.

According to the memo, the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, will:

  • Reduce deferred action for childhood renewals from two years to just one year.
  • Reject all initial DACA applications
  • Terminate or deny deferred action at any time if immigration determines it to be appropriate

The Effects of the New DACA Policy

This memorandum and the overall policy of the administration has made things more uncertain for DACA dreamers. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 66,000 children became ineligible for DACA after the Trump administration terminated the program. The Supreme Court’s decision was a beacon of hope for these children; however, the new DHS terms have locked them out of contention again. Besides the eligibility of new applicants, the policies will likely give rise to a host of other issues for the already-challenged migrants.

One of these issues is the health of individuals. Research suggests that DACA eligible individuals are more likely to seek health care and less likely to delay care because of financial issues. With the very real possibility of deportation, eligible applicants will, naturally, be less likely to seek health care even if they are suffering from a serious health condition.

An equally important issue is education. Without DACA, higher education will likely not be available at all to the children. At present, children with an approved DACA request can receive higher education at in-State rates in multiple States.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about this discriminatory DACA policy is that the presence of migrants is not only beneficial but also necessary for economic growth. The United States has an aging population: research suggests that people over the age of 65 will make up almost 25% of the population by 2025. However, in comparison to other countries with an aging population, such as China, Japan, and Germany, the United States’ economy has not been affected to the same extent by the aging population because of steady immigration.

Trump’s policies are leading to a drop in legal immigration, and a continuation of the current policies will only make the situation worse. If you are a DACA-eligible person – in the absence of deferred action – you can look to support immigration advocacy groups that are officially challenging the DACA-related actions of the USCIS.

Richard Herman is a nationally renowned immigration lawyer, author, and activist. He has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the founder of the Herman Legal Group, an immigration law firm launched in 1995 and recognized in U.S. World News & Report’s “Best Law Firms in America.” He is the co-author of the acclaimed book, Immigrant, Inc. —Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Richard’s poignant commentary has been sought out by many national media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Forbes, FOX News (The O’Reilly Factor), National Public Radio, Inc., National Lawyers Weekly, PC World, Computerworld, CIO, TechCrunch, Washington Times, San Francisco Chronicle and InformationWeek.

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