NOTE: Please visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website for the most current information on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
On June 15, 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum entitled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,” creating a non-congressionally authorized administrative program that permitted certain individuals who came to the United States as juveniles and meet several criteria—including lacking any current lawful immigration status—to request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and eligibility for work authorization. This program became known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The Obama administration chose to deploy DACA by Executive Branch memorandum—despite the fact that Congress affirmatively rejected such a program in the normal legislative process on multiple occasions. The constitutionality of this action has been widely questioned since its inception.
DACA’s criteria were overly broad, and not intended to apply only to children. Under the categorical criteria established in the June 15, 2012 memorandum, individuals could apply for deferred action if they had come to the U.S. before their 16th birthday; were under age 31; had continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007; and were in school, graduated or had obtained a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or were an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States. Significantly, individuals were ineligible if they had been convicted of a felony or a significant misdemeanor, but were considered eligible even if they had been convicted of up to two other misdemeanors.
The Attorney General sent a letter to the Department on September 4, 2017, articulating his legal determination that DACA “was effectuated by the previous administration through executive action, without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date, after Congress' repeated rejection of proposed legislation that would have accomplished a similar result. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” The letter further stated that because DACA “has the same legal and constitutional defects that the courts recognized as to DAPA, it is likely that potentially imminent litigation would yield similar results with respect to DACA.”
Based on this analysis, the President was faced with a stark choice: do nothing and allow for the probability that the entire DACA program could be immediately enjoined by a court in a disruptive manner, or instead phase out the program in an orderly fashion. Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Duke issued a memorandum (1) rescinding the June 2012 memo that established DACA, and (2) setting forward a plan for phasing out DACA. The result of this phased approach is that the Department of Homeland Security will provide a limited window in which it will adjudicate certain requests for DACA and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents meeting parameters specified below.
Effective immediately, DHS:
- Will adjudicate—on an individual, case-by-case basis—properly filed pending DACA initial requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents that have been accepted as of the date of this memorandum.
- Will reject all DACA initial requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents filed after the date of this memorandum.
- Will adjudicate—on an individual, case-by-case basis—properly filed pending DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of the date of this memorandum, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between the date of this memorandum and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted as of October 5, 2017.
- Will reject all DACA renewal requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents filed outside of the parameters specified above.
- Will not terminate the grants of previously issued deferred action or revoke Employment Authorization Documents solely based on the directives in this memorandum for the remaining duration of their validity periods.
- Will not approve any new Form I-131 applications for advance parole under standards associated with the DACA program, although it will generally honor the stated validity period for previously approved applications for advance parole. Notwithstanding the continued validity of advance parole approvals previously granted, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will—of course—retain the authority it has always had and exercised in determining the admissibility of any person presenting at the border and the eligibility of such persons for parole. Further, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will—of course—retain the authority to revoke or terminate an advance parole document at any time.
- Will administratively close all pending Form I-131 applications for advance parole filed under standards associated with the DACA program, and will refund all associated fees.
- Will continue to exercise its discretionary authority to terminate or deny deferred action for any reason, at any time, with or without notice.
It should be noted that DACA was not intended to be available to persons who entered illegally after 2007. Thus, persons entering the country illegally today, tomorrow or in the future will not be eligible for the wind down of DACA.