DACA Applications and Renewals Available for Now
Beneficiaries of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, were relieved to learn they would continue to be protected from deportation proceedings as the result of a new Supreme Court decision. The program, implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, has seen its fair share of legal challenges, including a crushed effort to expand the program in 2014. DACA has offered hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children the opportunity to live and work in the country despite their status.
Their livelihoods were threatened, however, when the Trump administration announced its intention to wind down and ultimately eliminate the program in 2017. The President suggested Congress could act to effectively save the program and its beneficiaries through a more permanent legislative solution. The Republican-controlled bodies failed to act, leaving the fate of DACA recipients up to the courts.
Immigrants eligible for DACA were no longer able to file new applications, and existing beneficiaries were no longer able to renew their status. The move was met with immediate criticism and legal challenges, with the issue ascending through the judicial system until it reached the Supreme Court for arguments in November 2019.
On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court reached its decision, rejecting the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind DACA and immediately restoring the program in its entirety. Current DACA recipients can now once again file for renewal of status, though the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not indicated when or if they will accept new applications. The permissibility of travel abroad remained opaque, as it was unclear if those with DACA status would be permitted to reenter the country.
The Supreme Court’s decision, a split 5-4 vote, was limited in nature. Chief Justice John Roberts joined his liberal colleagues in delivering the majority opinion, explicitly clarifying they were not ruling on the fundamental legality of DACA. Instead, they were objecting to the manner in which the Trump administration attempted to shut down the program, noting its “arbitrary and capricious” nature violated federal regulatory procedures.
This means the legality of DACA is still very much up in the air, and there is a very real possibility the program could still be dismantled. In fact, Chief Justice Roberts alluded to the possibility that the Trump administration could attempt a new shutdown of DACA using executive action that might hold up to legal scrutiny. This insinuation represents a grim portend for DACA beneficiaries, as the process of uncertainty could potentially repeat itself.
It is possible that President Trump will decline to pursue another DACA shutdown attempt. His first run at the program opened his administration to substantial criticism, some of it bipartisan, and some political observers have speculated another attempt could jeopardize his reelection campaign.
Still, DACA is at-risk of further political action. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has expressed his support for the program, but without a more permanent legislative solution, DACA will only continue to exist at the behest of the current administration. To truly protect DACA immigrants, Congress must implement a more enduring protection.
Foreign National Students Also Face New Challenges
The Trump administration released another round of new immigration restrictions on July 7, 2020. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, declared that foreign national students enrolled in the country’s universities must attend in-person instruction in the coming academic year to remain in compliance with their visas. Those who do not attend any in-person classes could be subject to immediate deportation.
The move was unexpected and seemingly at odds with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has compelled many universities, including Harvard, to adopt online-only instruction for the 2020-2021 academic year out of an abundance of caution for their students, faculty, and staff. Many colleges and universities are still in the process of determining how they will go about operations, and the sudden threat to their foreign students could impact their decisions on how to proceed.
The more than 1 million foreign students on student visas are estimated to contribute as much as $41 billion to higher education, prompting some critics to suggest ICE is attempting to force universities to offer in-person instruction to protect a lucrative line of income despite the safety risks involved. Those immigrants are presently in limbo as institutions respond to the news and grapple with its legality, especially as they only have months to respond.
Do Not Wait to Act on Immigration
It is undeniable that immigrants face a unique array of challenges in this moment. Because DACA could freeze applications or renewals at any time, it is imperative you act now if you believe you might be eligible for status. Similarly, if you are a foreign national with a student visa worried you may be left unprotected in the coming academic year, it is critical you seek legal assistance now.
We at the Law Offices of Sholeh Iravantchi have a proud history of applying our knowledge, experience, and skill to advocate for immigrants in the United States. Our firm was formed by immigrants, for immigrants, and we are committed to fighting for your DACA status, whether that means assisting you in preparing your documents, helping you file for renewal, or representing you before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Our firm’s commitment to fighting for immigrants has led to hundreds of legal victories. Now, let us fight for you. Call 714-619-9303 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We offer our services in both English and Spanish.