Before the end of June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling about the future of DACA. This ruling will have deep impacts for the 649,070 immigrants with DACA status across the country. It is suspected that the Supreme Court will favor the Trump Administration and rule to terminate the DACA program.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Obama in 2012 after considerable pressure from immigrant rights advocates. Since its conception, DACA was not intended to be a permanent solution, but rather, a “temporary stopgap measure,” as President Obama explained. The program helped individuals who were brought to the United States before the age of 16 and who were younger than 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012 (the date the program was announced). Individuals with DACA status have a two-year deferment from deportation, a Social security number, and the right to work legally in the U.S. This status is renewable every two years.
On September 5th, 2017, the Trump Administration announced that DACA would begin phasing out, pushing for Congress to establish a replacement program. Since 2017, immigrants have been unable to apply for DACA and can only renew if they are already recipients. There are concerns that immigrants with DACA status will be unable to renew their statuses after June.
Even if the Supreme Court rules to terminate or pause DACA this June 2020, President Trump still has the authority to allow individuals with DACA status to continue receiving DACA benefits. It is possible that the President may allow for renewals to continue, even after June 2020, until a new permanent solution is established.
A recommendation to individuals with DACA status is to try renewing DACA statuses before the end of June, in case the ruling does establish termination. DACA renewals received earlier than 150 days and up to 365 days in advance may be accepted. At the end of March 2020, 23,020 DACA recipients with April, May, and June expirations were reported to have yet to apply for renewals of their protections. If DACA recipients lose their ability to renew protections, about 1 in 5 individuals with DACA statuses in the U.S. will lose their protections by November 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique period of time, and a termination of DACA will have deep impacts on the U.S.’s management of the pandemic. Today, more than 200,000 DACA recipients are considered to be essential workers, including 28,200 nurses, personal care aides, and medical assistants, according to the Center for American Progress. Can the U.S. afford to lose this medical support during this pandemic?
On a positive note, immigrant-rights advocates continue to push for a permanent solution in Congress that will benefit noncitizens. The HR-6 Act, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would offer 2.5 million immigrants eligibility for protections and a pathway to citizenship. This is a bill that was passed by the House of Representatives, but has not yet been heard by the Senate. Perhaps, if DACA is paused or terminated, the HR-6 Act will gain more momentum.