Court Declares DACA Program Illegal: What Will Happen to the Thousands of DREAMers?

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On October 5, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals published a decision on the Texas v. United States DACA case. The Court of Appeals agrees with the original judgment that the program is illegal as it violates U.S. immigration law. Unfortunately, this ruling once again puts uncertainty into the lives of more than 800,000 DACA recipients and their family members residing in the U.S. According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the new regulations went into effect on October 31, 2022.

Next, we will answer some of the most common questions on what the new ruling on DACA means and how you can renew your DACA for free:

  1. What is DACA?
  2. What decision did the court make regarding DACA? 
  3. I already have DACA. How does this decision affect me? 
  4. I am eligible for DACA but have not yet submitted my initial application. How does this decision affect me? 
  5. What resources are available to help cover DACA renewals?
  6. Where can I get more information and updates regarding this new ruling?

What is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly known as DACA, is a policy that protects around 800,000 people, known as DREAMers, who entered the United States without documents as children. As of September 2020, the average age of a DACA recipient is approximately 27 years old. Many DACA recipients have careers, homes, and families in the United States. However, the program does not give them official legal status or a pathway to citizenship. Still, it does allow them to apply for a driver’s license, a social security number, and a work permit. 

What decision did the court make regarding DACA?

The DACA program was established in 2012 after Congress failed to pass President Obama’s Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act aimed at granting legal status to young immigrants living in the United States. In the absence of legislative support, Obama issued DACA via executive order as a temporary measure.

In 2017, when Trump was in office, he started to threaten and phase out the DACA program. From that moment forward, the legitimacy of DACA has been threatened in various court cases. Such as the recent ruling on October 5, 2022, where the Court of Appeals found the DACA program to be illegal, barred first-time applicants, and agreed with the Texas federal judge ruling that: 

  1. The states that challenged the DACA program had the right to do so; and 
  2. President Obama did not follow the law when he created the DACA program.

I already have DACA. How does this decision affect me? 

For now, the Court of Appeals agreed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can: 

  • Continue to accept and approve DACA renewal applications; 
  • Accept new applications but cannot make decisions about them or approve them; and 
  • Continue to process Advance Parole applications for current DACA recipients.

Although the program is left intact for current DACA recipients, those who are eligible but never submitted an initial application or have a pending application will not be approved while this court order remains in effect. USCIS will issue you a receipt notice and accept your form of payment but will take no further action on your case. This applies to all cases not approved before July 16, 2021. Please consult with a qualified immigration lawyer about your particular situation. For a list of organizations that offer affordable legal services, click here.

What resources are available to help cover DACA renewals?

You must renew your status on time if you are a DACA recipient. Under USCIS policy, if you submit a DACA request more than one year after your DACA expires, your request is considered an initial request, not a renewal. USCIS recommends applying for renewal between 150 and 120 days before your expiration date. 

If you need financial help to cover the $495 renewal fee, the following nationwide organizations offer assistance:

Once you have submitted your DACA renewal, you can track it through your USCIS account. For additional information on how to renew your DACA, please click here.

Where can I get more information and updates regarding this new ruling?

There is a possibility that DHS could ask the Supreme Court to weigh in on this case before it is sent back to the lower court for further review. For more DACA updates, please click here. You can also check out our website for other DACA-related news, such as: 

In conclusion, if you are a current DACA recipient, you can continue to renew your DACA status and apply for Advance Parole (if necessary). However, if you were planning to apply or have a pending DACA case that was not approved before July 16, 2021, USCIS will not be able to take any action on your case meanwhile this court order is in effect. 

**Noticias para Inmigrantes is a media and communications organization that provides independent reporting and commentary on issues affecting immigrants in the United States. It should be noted that we do not provide legal assistance or legal advice for any case unless we interview a specialized source on the subject. It is critical to clarify that each case is different, and it is important to consult with your attorney.

Mitzi Colin Lopez is a Digital Ads Content Creator and Experimenter at Noticias Para Inmigrantes. Her origin as a Mexican immigrant characterizes and drives her to empower the Latinx, Hispanic and immigrant communities. She is a recent graduate of West Chester University, where she obtained her bachelor’s in Political Science and Spanish. Her passions include social justice, advocacy, hiking, traveling, and weightlifting.