Appeals court rules DACA violates immigration law; what happens with the program now?

A federal appeals court panel on Wednesday ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program violates U.S. immigration law.

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While the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the program illegal, the case was returned to a lower court to consider revisions the Biden administration made in August that would save the program.

In a statement issued late Wednesday night, President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

“The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo,” Biden said in a statement, adding, “It is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said of the case before the ruling “If you could do something to make the border more secure around DACA, count me in.”

The Department of Homeland Security announced in August that the administration would generally codify existing policies with limited amendments so as to preserve DACA. The final rule would go into effect Oct. 31.

Wednesday’s decision affirms a 2021 lower court ruling that said the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to create DACA in 2012. The 2021 decision barred the Biden administration from enrolling new immigrants in the program.

The lower court ruled that first-time DACA applicants are barred from applying to the program. Those whose DACA requests were approved prior to July 16, 2021, will continue to have DACA status and all DACA requests that were approved before July 16 will continue to be eligible to renew DACA and DACA work permits.

What is DACA and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know about the program.

What is the DACA program?The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects people brought to the United States illegally as children from being immediately deported if they are picked up by immigration officials. The program began in 2012 as an executive order by former President Barack Obama.

Is everyone in the program an undocumented alien?Yes.

How does the program work?

The program allows those who are eligible to request “consideration of deferred action” (on their immigration status) for a period of two years. The deferred action is subject to renewal. The program also issues DACA work permits.

Does that mean Dreamers are U.S. citizens?

No. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “Deferred action does not provide lawful status.”

How many people are in the program?

As of June 30, more than 594,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children were enrolled in DACA. According to records from USCIS, half of the 594,120 DACA immigrants live in California, Texas and Illinois.

Who is eligible for DACA?

Those younger than the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, if they came to the U.S. before turning 16 and have lived in the country continuously since June 15, 2007, are eligible for the program.

Are there any other requirements?

To be considered for the program, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certification, have been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school. DACA recipients cannot have a criminal record.