On the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June 2012, DACA continues to improve and transform the lives of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and qualify for temporary protection from deportation and employment authorization. The new administration, however, has significantly stepped up its immigration enforcement activities around the country, and the future of DACA appears uncertain.
To mark the occasion, Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said: “We support maintaining DACA for the nearly 800,000 undocumented youth who have obtained relief from deportation and authorization to work. We urge Congress to enact laws that would offer legalization and a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals, including the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Asian immigrants in this country.”
Annie Wang, staff attorney in AALDEF’s Immigrant Access to Justice program, added: “For the most part, we are encouraging individuals who already obtained deportation relief under DACA to renew their deferred action. If their circumstances have changed since the approval of their previous request (for example, they have been arrested or charged for certain offenses), these individuals should consult with qualified attorneys and legal service providers to determine whether they should request a renewal of their deferred action.”
Since the DACA program was first implemented in 2012, AALDEF has provided legal assistance to Asian immigrant youth who may be eligible for DACA. Wang said: “We have been closely monitoring the expansion in interior enforcement, including the arrests and detention of undocumented immigrants with DACA.”
Recent findings from the National UnDACAmented Research Project, a large-scale survey of DACA-eligible young adults in 46 states and Washington, DC, showed that DACA was opening new educational and employment opportunities for beneficiaries and contributing to the growth of local economies. In addition, an April 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated that undocumented youth who are currently enrolled in or eligible for DACA pay approximately $2 billion each year in state and local taxes. Creating a path to citizenship for DACA-eligible individuals would increase their state and local tax contributions by $505 million, for a total of $2.53 billion a year.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released statistics revealing that as of March 31, 2017, approximately 36,000 young adults have qualified for DACA, with 211,000 renewals granted. While the U.S. Supreme Court’s “non-decision” in June 2016 blocked the rollout of DAPA and expanded DACA and the protection from deportation for many more individuals who would have benefited from these initiatives, it does not affect the current DACA program. Those who are eligible under the existing guidelines can continue to file renewal requests (see AALDEF post-2016 election DACA fact sheet).
UPDATE: On Thursday night, June 15, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would reverse the policy announced in Nov. 2014 to create a new program providing deferred action from deportation and employment authorization to eligible parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, known as DAPA, and to expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. In this announcement, DHS stated that it plans to continue the 2012 DACA program providing temporary protection from deportation and work authorization to undocumented young people. You can read DHS’s Frequently Asked Questions on its policy rescinding DAPA and the expansion of DACA here.
NOTE: Undocumented individuals who believe they may qualify for the DACA initiative should consult with immigration attorneys or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives to evaluate their individual circumstances. They should be wary of individuals who seek to charge fees by filing initial requests for undocumented youth who have never obtained deferred action under DACA and had not previously provided their personal information to USCIS.
For more information, contact:
Annie Wang, Staff Attorney
Stanley Mark, Senior Staff Attorney