Court Strikes Down Limitations on DACA Program

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. November 16, 2020
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Department of Homeland Security sign and seal on the side of a building

​A federal district court struck down a memo by the acting secretary of homeland security that had placed significant limits on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Chad Wolf was not lawfully serving as acting secretary, the court ruled on Nov. 14, and therefore did not have authority to issue the memo. Wolf issued the memo in July after the Supreme Court blocked efforts to end the program.

DACA recipients, also called "Dreamers," were brought to the United States as children by their parents or other adults who were living in the U.S. illegally, and they have spent most of their lives in the U.S. DACA prevents recipients from being deported and allows them to obtain Social Security cards and work-authorization documents that can be renewed every two years .

We've gathered articles on the recent decision and the DACA program from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Memo's Restrictions

Under the July memo, Wolf said new applications for DACA would not be accepted and renewals would be limited to one year instead of two during an ongoing review. The Trump administration is seeking Wolf's confirmation before Inauguration Day. Without confirmation, policies during his tenure may continue to be challenged. But the recent decision may be appealed.

(CNN)

Effect of Ruling

The decision means the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to restore the DACA program to its original form, including reopening it for first-time applicants and granting two-year work permits. When that may happen is uncertain, but it reportedly means that for the first time since 2017 new applicants who were too young to be eligible may now apply to participate in the program. Nonetheless, in a statement, a department spokesman called the decision's judge an "activist" who substituted his own policy preferences for the law. The department "is exploring its options to ensure its review of DACA continues as intended," the spokesman said.

(ABC 13–KTRK and The Wall Street Journal)

Supreme Court Blocks End of DACA

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the DACA program should not have been overturned and said the Trump administration's actions to rescind DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. When President Trump announced the decision to rescind DACA in 2017, he said, "In June of 2012, President Obama bypassed Congress to give work permits, Social Security numbers and federal benefits to approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants currently between the ages of 15 and 36. The typical recipients of this executive amnesty, known as DACA, are in their twenties. Legislation offering these same benefits had been introduced in Congress on numerous occasions and rejected each time." The Supreme Court decided that rescission was arbitrary and capricious. The opinion left the possibility that the administration could issue a new rescission of DACA if it considered factors that it ignored the first time, said Jeffrey Davidson, an attorney with Covington & Burling in San Francisco.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM's small business legal solution resource—SHRM LegalNetwork.]

What the Supreme Court Ruling in DACA Means for Employers

The Supreme Court's ruling preserving the DACA program provided relief not only for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants it covers, but also for the organizations that employ them. The ruling allowed companies to plan for the continued employment of DACA workers rather than get ready for difficult conversations about letting them go, said Ian Macdonald, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig in Atlanta.

(SHRM Online)

Paths to Legalization

During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden proposed several ideas to expand employment-based immigration, such as providing paths to legalization for undocumented immigrants generally, and specifically for DACA recipients, undocumented farmworkers and international students in science, technology, engineering and math programs.

(SHRM Online)

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