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Federal Judge Restores DACA —What Does This Mean for Dreamers?

What is DACA?

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a policy that protects certain individuals who came to the United States as children. The policy provides a two year deferment from deportation. It also gives applicants the ability to apply for a work authorization document. 

Does DACA lead to a green card or citizenship?

Unfortunately, this policy did not and does not provide a path to a green card (legal permanent residence) nor does it offer a pathway to citizenship. In fact, Dreamers have to renew their DACA and employment authorization documents every two years. 

What effect does the recent court order have?

In September of 2017, President Trump ordered an end to the program. Since then, USCIS has not been accepting new DACA applications. However, on June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court blocked President Trump’s attempt to end DACA in a 5-4 ruling. The ruling kept the program alive and allowed DACA recipients continue renewing their documents. But the ruling also left open the possibility that the Administration could still end DACA in the future if they give a proper justification.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in the Eastern District of New York on Friday ordered DHS to post a public notice within three days – by Monday – that it would accept applications under the original terms of the program. Garaufis has ruled that Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, was unlawfully serving in his position. As a result, effective December 7, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is:

  • Accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) based on the terms of the DACA policy in effect prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order;
  • Accepting DACA renewal requests based on the terms of the DACA policy in effect prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order;
  • Accepting applications for advance parole documents based on the terms of the DACA policy prior to September 5, 2017, and in accordance with the Court’s December 4, 2020, order;
  • Extending one-year grants of deferred action under DACA to two years; and
  • Extending one-year employment authorization documents under DACA to two years.

Can I apply for DACA as a first-time applicant?

Technically, yes. Judge Garaufis’ order mandates that DHS must start accepting first-time requests according to the terms of the policy prior to September of 2017. However, DHS has stated in their website that they will comply with Judge Garaufis’ order while it remains in effect, but they may seek relief from the order. 

What are the requirements to submit a first-time DACA application?

You may request DACA if you:

  1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Who can help me with my DACA application?

It is highly suggested that you speak with an immigration attorney for an individual assessment before submitting a DACA application.