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Federal Court Judge Reinstates DACA Program

On December 4, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis issued an order requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program is an Obama-era initiative that has allowed undocumented foreign nationals who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country and work legally. Under the original program scheme, participants were allowed to reapply every two years for authorization to stay in the program. 

In 2017, the Trump Administration announced it would be “winding down” the program and no longer accepting new applications for deferred action. This initiative soon faced several legal challenges, and the Government’s attempt to “unwind” the DACA program was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court in June 2020 on procedural grounds. Specifically, the Court ruled the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) process of ending the DACA program violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for its action. 

In response to the Supreme Court’s 2020 ruling, DHS issued a policy memorandum announcing that it would review the DACA program and, while under review, it would not be accepting any new DACA applications for deferred action. DHS also limited the period of any deferred action granted pursuant to the DACA program to one year. 

A class action lawsuit was soon brought in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York by a group of young immigrants challenging DHS’s new policy. Judge Garaufis ultimately ruled against the Trump Administration, finding that the Acting Homeland Security Secretary, Chad Wolf, was not lawfully appointed when he issued the controversial policy memorandum. The changes set forth in the policy memorandum were vacated, and Judge Garaufis ordered the Government to restore the DACA program to its original form. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its website on December 7, 2020 with a notice confirming that it will be accepting new DACA applications in compliance with Judge Garaufis’s order. Specifically, USCIS is now: 

  • Accepting first-time requests for consideration of deferred action under DACA;
  • Accepting DACA renewal requests;
  • Accepting applications for advance parole documents;
  • Extending one-year grants of deferred action under DACA to two years; and
  • Extending one-year employment authorization documents under DACA to two years.

Judge Garaufis’s ruling will allow an estimated 685,000 additional people to apply for DACA. Although this ruling will provide a sigh of relief for DACA program participants, the Government will likely appeal Judge Garaufis’s decision. There is also another lawsuit currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas which targets the legality of the program. This case poses a serious risk to the life of DACA as it attacks the program in substance rather than on procedural grounds. Advocates of DACA believe that legislation providing a path to citizenship may be a necessary step in order to gain any long-term solutions for DACA participants.

Berardi Immigration Law will continue to closely monitor all news surrounding DACA and will provide our clients with the most accurate and up to date information possible! If you have questions on DACA, be sure to contact our office to speak to an attorney today!