Not everyone who lacks immigration documentation has violated United States laws intentionally. Some people entered the country as children because of decisions made by their parents. These immigrants have fewer opportunities than their peers because of their undocumented status.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has affected immigration practices in the United States for more than a decade. Beginning in June 2012, the United States Department of Homeland Security ceased deporting certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States when they were children.
DACA made it possible for those who entered the country as minors to avoid removal from the country through deferred action, which is essentially temporary permission to remain in the country. Since its initial implementation in 2012, DACA has positively impacted the lives of thousands of immigrants in the United States.
As of the end of 2023, however, DACA faces significant challenges. The future of this policy remains unclear, and there are fewer options for those who would have previously qualified for protection under DACA.
Court rulings have challenged the legality of DACA protections
Since July of 2021, a ruling from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas has effectively halted DACA application processing. The courts imposed an injunction prohibiting the approval of new DACA requests and employment authorizations for those with current DACA protection.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld this ruling in 2022. Then, another ruling from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas declared the DACA final rule unlawful.
At this point, there is a partial stay for current DACA recipients if they obtained their status before July 16, 2021. New applicants cannot secure employment authorization or DACA protections from removal. However, those who already have grants of DACA and employment authorization can continue to renew those existing grants.
Those who entered the country as children and who are theoretically eligible for deferred action may have other opportunities to protect themselves from removal from the United States. Those who did not receive a grant of DACA before the court rulings in 2021, 2022 and 2023 may need to consult with a legal professional to evaluate other options.