Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration program that grants privileges to those who set foot in the United States as undocumented child immigrants. This program does not grant them citizenship. Although, it allows these immigrants, who are now adults, certain rights. These include the ability to appeal for a work permit, driver’s license, and a social security number.
Recently, a federal judge’s ruling states that DACA first-time applicants may no longer avail of the program. The legislation says that the program is possibly illegal and has become a shield from deportation by some illegal immigrants. It created a great disturbance to those affected immigrants. That’s why various groups, such as the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, advocate for a better status of these immigrants as a whole.
Read on for the three things that you need to know about DACA.
1. The DACA Qualifications
President Barack Obama established the program in 2012. The policy was called the Dream Act. The beneficiaries were called the ‘Dreamers.’ These ‘Dreamers’ were illegal immigrants who were less than 16 years old when they came to the United States.
Specifically, an illegal immigrant is eligible for DACA if they meet these qualifications:
- They’re under the age of 16 when they came to the United States.
- They’ve incessantly resided in the United States for a minimum of five years from June 15, 2012, and are there in the United States on June 15, 2012.
- They’re currently a student or a recent high school graduate, have acquired a certificate in general education development, or veterans who were honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed forces of the United States.
- They’ve never been sentenced for any offense or crime that poses a risk to public safety or national security.
- They’re not over 30 years old.
2. The DACA Privileges
Since the DACA Program defers any action against the qualified immigrants, they became eligible to receive the following benefits:
- Social Security and Medicare: It is a program enjoyed by citizens and legal immigrants of the United States where the government shares the cost of health care. They may also avail themselves of free medical hospital insurance if qualified under the program. The privileges of this program are also made available to a DACA beneficiary.
- Apply for work authorization: A DACA beneficiary may apply for work authorization. This authorization will allow them to work alongside legal immigrants or citizens of the United States without fear of being caught and deported.
- Social security number: Social Security Number is initially issued only to citizens and legal residents of the United States. It serves as an identification number used in obtaining credit, buying properties, availing of government benefits, and other transactions. It is also made available to a DACA beneficiary.
- Some state benefits: There are other benefits also granted to DACA beneficiaries. These benefits were initially enjoyed only by citizens, such as state-subsidized work-study programs.
3. The DACA Controversies
Over the years, DACA beneficiaries and the program itself, have encountered roadblocks. This made quite a divide on whether to continue with the program
There had been many so-called attempts from the Trump administration to discontinue the program. They said that the program is allegedly used as a shield by so many illegal immigrants. Although, DACA advocates countered that this move is discriminatory and a human rights violation.
These are also some pressing issues that the DACA program and its beneficiaries face:
- Budget burden: Every state should spend more money annually. There’s the problem of increasing the annual budget for these privileges. The government has to support the increasing number of citizens and legal immigrants. And at the same time, the rising number of illegal immigrants. This may be the reason why some states are pushing for the phasing out of this program.
- Human smuggling and human trafficking: There have been reports that the program could be used as a front for human smuggling and human trafficking. These activities are now a growing problem in the United States. These illegal activities are also tainting the legality of the program and the presence of its beneficiaries.
In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court declared that then-President Trump and his associates’ proposal to cancel the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious. The High Court said that they ‘failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its action.’ This ruling inspired so many DACA advocates.
However, in September 2021, a US District Judge ruled that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may continue to accept new DACA applications and accept renewal of previous applications.
The decision also said that the DHS could no longer approve new DACA applications. And it can’t grant the attendant status for these new applicants.
But it’s not hopeless yet for the DACA program applicants. The new administration under President Biden could be pushing for the legalization of the status of the DACA beneficiaries and all other immigrants. They may not have gotten past the Senate, but there are still alternate proposals to be presented.
Karen Springs is a law student in her third year. She loves to share her knowledge of the law through blogging and guest posting. It’s her way of helping people be aware of their legal rights. In her free time, Karen binge-watches her Favorite Netflix shows and is a huge fan of Stranger Things.