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Understanding The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

Understanding The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program
Image: Harrie van Veen

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a program that has been very helpful to many people, allowing them to stay within the US, obtain a work permit, and so much more. However, this policy may be confusing for those who haven’t been around since it was first introduced—thankfully, this article is intended to help with just that.

We’ll explain what DACA is, who can apply for it, how to renew it, its history, and what makes it controversial. By the time this article is over, you’ll understand exactly what DACA is and why there is an ongoing struggle for stability amongst DACA recipients.

What is DACA?

DACA is an immigration policy in the United States that allows some of the people who were brought to the US unlawfully as children to avoid deportation. These people can obtain a few key pieces of documentation, such as driver’s licenses and work permits. 

A DACA recipient must renew their DACA every two years to retain these benefits and remain in the United States. While we’ll go over the history more in-depth later, it’s important to note that DACA exists as a result of the DREAM Act failing to get support. DREAM would have allowed its recipients a path to obtain citizenship, while DACA does not. 

As a result, recipients scramble to renew their status every two years to avoid deportation. While many people have received DACAs in the past, recent court actions have prevented anyone else from obtaining one that those already accepted are still able to renew.

Who Can Apply for DACA?

When new DACA recipients were accepted, there were guidelines that covered who was and was not eligible for DACA support

Some of the requirements include the person’s age, as they must have been younger than thirty-one in June of 2012 and were in the US before they turned sixteen. Others refer to how long you lived in the US, stating you must have lived there continuously since June of 2007, and others assert that you could not have had any prior legal immigration status before applying. 

You also must not have committed any major crime or otherwise threatened public safety and either be a US veteran or are either in or have completed high school. There’s a small fee for filing, though you may be able to waive it if you can prove that you cannot properly pay it.

How Can You Renew Your DACA?

As mentioned earlier, DACA recipients must renew their DACA every two years. Once it expires, you must submit a renewal in under a year for your renewal to be considered. To renew your DACA application, you must first locate your previous renewal. 

The information provided on this document will be required on the new one, and being able to prove that you were a recipient will make it easier for you to renew. You then need to create a free USCIS account online, as online renewal requests are now available. Once you’ve created the account and selected the “File a Form Online” option, refer to your previous renewal as you fill out the new one. 

You could also follow the instructions provided on the document should your previous form be unavailable for some reason. Once filled out, you pay the fee, submit any documents supporting your status and why you need DACA, then you can submit the forms and track at least some of the processing progress online. 

This is important to watch as they may set appointments to collect some key biometric data, such as your fingerprints. Missing these appointments may result in your renewal getting denied, so keep a close eye on when yours is scheduled and call in to reschedule as necessary.

What is the History of DACA?

The History of DACA is unique and has taken many different twists and turns during the time it has been enacted. Originally, President Barack Obama attempted to pass the DREAM Act, which would not only provide some of the same benefits of DACA but would also allow for those it covered to seek citizenship. 

DREAM failed to pass through Congress, however, and so DACA was created and passed as an executive order. The original order was a bit different than how it is now as it could not only be renewed every two years and allowed work permits to recipients but also allowed immigrants to apply so long as they fell under certain guidelines.

In the fall of 2017, the Trump administration claimed that it would try to phase DACA out over time. Several court cases ensued and resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that repealing it was a violation of federal law. President Trump did manage to succeed with other restrictions, such as reducing the program length from two years to one and rejecting all new DACA applications. 

It looked as though this latter restriction would change in January of 2021, but was later halted in July of 2021. Many new people obtained DACAs during this brief window and were allowed to renew, although no headway toward completely reopening the program has been made since.

Why is DACA Controversial?

As you may have expected from everything we’ve discussed so far, the DACA program is controversial, but why? The point of contention that the Trump administration argued was that the previous administration had no right to pass the program as an executive order.

Despite this, many people support the DACA program, with the loudest dissenting voices being those who support Donald Trump. Not only do many people support DACA, but so do certain companies, such as Microsoft. 

DACA was not the only immigration program the administration tried to end, however, as they attempted and failed to end the diversity green card lottery and the Temporary Protected Status program, among others.

The Future of DACA in America

The DACA program is crucial to those who have successfully received it and has been the center of many immigration protection discussions since it was introduced. 

Hopefully, you now have a much deeper understanding of it, and those who rely on it a bit better and can now form a well-informed opinion about it as a result.