Things That Matter

New DACA Applications Were Processed At The End Of 2020 For The First Time In Years

Update January 7, 2021

The lives of hundreds of thousands of young people in the U.S. were thrown into jeopardy in September 2017. That was when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was originally halted by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Three years later, new applications are finally being processed.

More than 170 new DACA applications were approved at the end of 2020.

A report given to a federal court in Brooklyn shows that the Department of Homeland Security approved 171 new DACA applications. About 500 applications have been denied or rejected while more than 2,700 applications were submitted.

In June 2020, a federal judge ruled that President Trump wrongfully ended the DACA program in 2017. However, the then-acting head of the Department of Homeland Security stated that the department would not accept new applications. Furthermore, Chad Wolf’s memo stated that renewals would be made for one year instead of two years.

In November, a federal judge ruled that Wolf was illegally appointed to his position as acting head of DHS. The Trump administration didn’t challenge the ruling and it immediately invalidated Wolf’s memo. DHS was notified that they had to public post that new applications will be accepted.

If you want to submit a new DACA application or if yours lapsed during the uncertainty, click here for resources.

Original: In a major victory for the community, a federal judge has ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which was created by President Barack Obama in 2012, must be completely reinstated and open to new applicants starting today.

However, this case could still end up before the Supreme Court (which now has three conservative Trump appointees) making its future uncertain. This is why congressional action is so critical in protecting our friends, family, and neighbors from the whims of ever-chasing political landscapes.

DACA gets another lifeline as federal judge orders Trump to restart the program in full.

On Friday, a federal judge handed immigrants and their families a major victory with a ruling on DACA. Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in his ruling, that the terms of the federal program must be immediately restored to what they were “prior to the attempted rescission of September 2017” when the White House began a series of maneuvers to dismantle the program. 

The case is Batalla Vidal v. Wolf, and largely hinges on the argument that Chad Wolf – the DHS official who issued the memo ending the program – wasn’t acting within his legal authority to do so.

In his order, Garaufis said that DHS must “post a public notice, within 3 calendar days of this Order … that it is accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA.” Which means that unless a higher court blocks his order, DHS must begin accepting new applications for as soon as today. 

Garaufis also ordered the government to produce a status report on the DACA program to him by Jan. 4, and said it must include the number of first-time DACA applications it’s received, adjudicated, approved, denied and rejected from Nov. 14 to Dec. 31 of this year.

Eligible migrants will be able to apply for DACA protection immediately.

DACA currently protects about 640,000 undocumented young immigrants. As of July, an estimated 300,000 young people living in the U.S. are eligible for the program and still waiting for a chance to apply. That includes 55,000 who have aged into eligibility over the last three years.

So the good news for DACA-eligible immigrants is that, barring a decision from a higher court blocking Garaufis’s most recent order, those immigrants will soon be able to obtain DACA status. And even if the order is blocked, President-elect Joe Biden has also pledged to fully reinstate DACA once he takes office on January 20.

The judge also instructed officials to reinstate two-year permits for qualifying applicants. Over the summer, the administration had begun issuing one-year permits. 

This ruling is the latest blow to the administration’s attempts to undermine the Obama-era program.

Credit: Sandy Huffaker / AFP / Getty Images

Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to completely dismantle the DACA program. However, they’ve also faced serious pushback on the legal front in their attempts to do so.

In 2017, Trump’s DHS issued a memo that sought to wind down the DACA program, but the Supreme Court ruled last June that DHS’s initial attempts to end it were void because the department did not adequately explain why it was doing so.

Nevertheless, the future of DACA remains uncertain. For one thing, the Supreme Court’s June decision blocking the Trump administration’s initial attempts to end the program was a  5-4 decision, with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority. Since then, Trump has replaced Ginsburg with the far more conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett. And even before Barrett arrived at the Supreme Court, several members of the Court had signaled that they thought DACA is illegal.

So there’s a reasonable likelihood that the Court’s new 6-3 Republican majority will strike down the DACA program even as Biden tries to preserve it.

Although a major win, the ruling could also have major consequences for Biden’s presidency.

Although a major win for the immigrant community, Garaufis’s ruling could have serious consequences for Biden’s presidency. In his opinion, Garaufis is basically placing limits on the authority presidents have to make acting appointments. And if the Senate remains under Republican control, they will essentially have the power to block any Biden nominee.

All of this boils down to the upcoming Georgia senate races. If Republicans win in either race, then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will continue to lead the Senate, and Republicans will have the power to block any Biden nominee to any Senate-confirmed job.

That’s why the January run off races in Georgia are bigger than just Georgia. They will help shape everything from the country’s COVID-19 response and foreign policy to how Biden fixes years of attacks on the nation’s immigrant community.

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