DACA: The Roller Coaster Ride and Waiting Continues

It’s been a roller coaster for all immigrants lately, but no one has had to endure more ups and downs than DACA recipients. When AG Sessions announced the end of the program last September, people filed renewals as quickly as possible to meet an early October deadline. We then waited for Congress to take up the cause, but they failed. In the meantime, lawsuits popped up around the country. Advocates argued that the Trump Administration failed to follow the rules when they cancelled the program and the government argued that DACA was unconstitutional and should never have started in the first place.

In January, the District Court for the Northern District of California blocked the termination of the DACA program. USCIS then began accepting renewal DACA applications – but no new initial filings and no advance parole (travel permission) applications for DACA recipients would be granted. In February, a federal judge in New York granted a temporary injunction that also allowed for DACA applications to continue to be filed. In April, another federal judge – this one in Washington, DC – found that the government had to continue accepting DACA applications, though he delayed his decision to go into effect for 90 days to allow the government to make one final argument.

Up through the summer, DACA was safe, though certainly precarious. To be safe, many many people applied for renewals a year in advance in the hopes that they’d get as much time as possible in DACA status, should the program be terminated. Every day of DACA is a gift.

On August 3rd, the judge in Washington, DC issued a new ruling. He said that the government failed to justify they ended the program and said that DACA should be fully re-instituted. That means new applications and advance parole should be back on the table. He again postponed the effective date to allow the government to appeal, but by 20 days. By mid-August, the government could be forced to continue with DACA as though AG Sessions announcement in September 2017 never happened.

Just a few days later, on August 8th, a federal judge in Texas heard arguments on why the DACA program should be terminated. The government again argued against its constitutionality. Many think that Judge Hanen will rule against DACA – he ruled against a similar program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). If he rules against DACA and says that the program should be terminated immediately, then USCIS will stop accepting all renewals and applications. We don’t know when Judge Hanen will issue a decision, though it will likely be before August 23rd – when the Washington, DC federal judge’s decision would go into effect.

What happens next? Good question. Because there would be a split, a difference of opinion, among the federal courts, the case would be fast-tracked to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. Will DACA recipients be allowed to renew their cases while waiting for the Supreme Court? Will new recipients be allowed to file? We don’t know. A lot could change in the next few weeks. In the meantime, for those with DACA, file your renewals to be safe.

As soon as we know more, we’ll let you know!

-Tracie