Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a vital immigration program. It allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children (called Dreamers) to live and work in America. DACA status keeps Dreamers free from the constant threat of deportation to unfamiliar countries. Currently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for DACA applications, is no longer processing new applications. However, USCIS will accept your application if you choose to send it in. This article will provide a brief legal history of DACA and explain why USCIS is accepting but not processing applications.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Written May 30, 2022
Legal history of DACA
President Obama started the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012 with an Executive Order. DACA provides renewable two-year work permits and protection from deportation for the young people eligible for the program, but it is not a path to citizenship. In 2017, five years after the program started, President Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end the DACA program. DHS is the parent organization for the agency that handles immigration applications - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
On June 18, 2020, The Supreme Court ruled that the way the Trump administration ended the DACA program was unlawful. However, the DHS maintained their DACA freeze and USCIS only continued to grant one-year renewals. For three years, USCIS did not accept new DACA applications, until December 9, 2020, following a deadline set by a New York federal judge. On the first day of the Biden Administration, President Biden signed an Executive Order reinstating DACA to full capacity and vowed to find a path in the law to long term legal status for Dreamers.
Unfortunately, on July 16, 2021 a Texas federal judge ruled in favor of a group of Texas Attorney-Generals who had been arguing that the DACA program was unconstitutional. The ruling is currently on appeal but USCIS will not process any new DACA applications, including related work authorization and Advance Parole requests, until the appeal is successful. Current DACA recipients are not affected by this ruling. You can submit a new DACA application if you’re eligible. USCIS will accept your case but will not process first-time applications.
Instead, your application will be on hold with USCIS - they won’t cash any payment you submit with your application while it’s on hold. If the appeal is unsuccessful, they will return your application packet to your mailing address. But if the appeal is successful, they will process your application.
How can I apply for DACA?
You can check out our detailed step-by-step DACA application guide for more information on the application process. If you do have complicating factors, consider seeking free or low-cost legal help at https://www.usa.gov/legal-aid.
Where can I learn more about DACA?
To learn more about DACA, check out the ImmigrationHelp.org Learning Center. You’ll find detailed guides and articles on: