On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a long-awaited decision, deciding the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers certain protections and benefits for undocumented childhood arrivals to the United States. The DACA program was instituted via a memorandum by then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on June 15, 2012. The Supreme Court determined that the Trump Administration’s attempt to terminate the program was unlawful. DACA lives to see another day, and the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients may continue living and working in the U.S. pursuant to this vital program.
The DACA program did not provide a path to citizenship, but it did allow many undocumented individuals to have their removal cases deferred for two years periods. Perhaps more significant to many undocumented individuals who were not in removal proceedings, it also conferred certain benefits such as the ability to receive employment authorization documents, which gave them the authority to work legally in the United States, obtain valid social security numbers, and even to request permission to travel outside the United States to pursue educational and work opportunities or for humanitarian purposes.
It is estimated that over 700,000 individuals benefit from this DACA program, and excluding them from the labor force by removing this program could result in a loss of $215 billion in economic activity, as well as $60 billion in federal tax revenue over the next 10 years. States could also stand to lose $1.25 billion in tax revenue each year. In these ways, the impact of the DACA program is huge.
Despite these statistics, the new Trump administration sought to end the DACA program, and on June 2017 the DACA memorandum was rescinded. Several legal challenges to the program’s termination led to an ability for recipients to renew their DACA status again, but new applications and requests for travel permission (advance parole) were disallowed.
The hopes of many DACA recipients, their employers, their families, and their communities have hung on the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that was finally issued today, declaring the termination of the program unlawful because the Trump Administration failed to provide a clear rationale for its action. Notably, the Supreme Court found the Trump Administration’s failure to consider the reliance of the DACA recipients and everyone else impacted by its action arbitrary and capricious—basically, unreasonable, and unjustifiable.
As exciting as today’s Supreme Court decision is, it must also be approached cautiously. The Supreme Court did not decide the legality of the program itself and did not take any issue with that fact that the program was actually rescinded. The victory was based on how the Administration tried to end DACA, not why. The Trump Administration could try to terminate the program again if it is able to provide a more thorough justification.
Based on this ruling, DACA recipients can continue renewing their DACA status. Individuals eligible for DACA as a new application should soon be able to apply. DACA recipients should again be allowed to apply for advance parole with valid reasons for travel outside the U.S.
The fight for Dreamers must continue until they are secure with a permanent status in the U.S. This is still a huge victory in this time of uncertainty.
If you or a loved one may benefit from DACA, please give us a call for an individualized discussion of your options.