Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
KEY THINGS TO KNOW (updated Jan. 31, 2019):
It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but DACA is still alive, despite the Trump administration’s many efforts to end it. Because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear DACA cases this term, we expect DACA renewals to continue to be processed until at least October 2019. If your DACA expires in 2019 (or if it already expired), we urge you to apply to renew ASAP!
For authoritative, regularly updated information on DACA litigation, see the National Immigration Law Center.
We also recommend this excellent overview of DACA’s positive impact on beneficiaries and the whole economy.
• What should DACA beneficiaries do if they have a criminal conviction or pending case? (Immigrant Legal Resource Center)
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has transformed the lives of nearly 800,000 young people, including more than 8,000 Massachusetts residents. Now, with DACA kept alive only by litigation in federal courts, Congress must step to protect Dreamers permanently.
Established by President Obama in 2012, DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants to live and work legally in the U.S., subject to renewal every two years. To qualify, you had to be undocumented; have arrived in the U.S. prior to your 16th birthday; have lived continuously in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; be in school or have graduated, obtained a GED, or been honorably discharged from the military; and have no serious criminal record.
An estimated 1.3 million people met those criteria as of August 2018, and about 400,000 more could meet them once they turned 15 or completed educational requirements. In Massachusetts, about 19,000 people were eligible, and another 4,000 could qualify in the future.
For those who obtained DACA, it was life-changing, making it possible to get a driver’s license for the first time; pursue an education (with in-state tuition at Massachusetts public colleges and universities); start a career; obtain much-better jobs; travel; and fully participate in their communities.
But in September 2017, President Trump announced he would end DACA within six months. He called on Congress to find a long-term solution for Dreamers, but the White House and nativists in Congress repeatedly sabotaged negotiations. Simultaneously, several lawsuits were filed in federal courts, and U.S. District Court judges have issued injunctions blocking the termination of DACA. As a result, since late January 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has continued to accept DACA renewal applications. The Trump administration had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and decide the fate of DACA once and for all, but the Court will not be taking up the issue before fall 2019.
In the meantime, advocates have strongly encouraged DACA recipients to renew their status, even as they continue to fight for permanent residency and a path to citizenship. Fear and other factors had led DACA enrollment to fall in Massachusetts even before September 2017, to about 5,900. Nationwide, the vast majority of DACA recipients have kept renewing, but the total number of active DACA holders has dropped, from a post-injunction peak of 704,000 in July 2018 to 687,000 as of December 2018. Nearly 5,000 Dreamers with pending renewals have seen their DACA expire, leaving them exposed.
MIRA stands firmly with Dreamers in their push for recognition as full-fledged Americans, and we are committed to supporting DACA recipients to ensure they keep their protections active.