The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been in and out of court for the past few years, leaving the young adults it protects (known as Dreamers) with uncertain futures. On Friday, July 16, 2021, a federal judge in Texas ruled the program unlawful. According to the judge, President Obama exceeded his authority when he created the program via executive action.
What Will Happen to the Dreamers?
The decision from the United States District Court in Houston will not remove protections for existing Dreamers immediately, but it will temporarily prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications.
To save DACA, Congress must step in with a legislative remedy. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has already appealed the decision, and the fate of DACA as an executive action will likely be decided by the Supreme Court – if the federal government fails to come up with a more lasting solution.
DACA is important. It currently allows about 650,000 immigrants who came to the country as children to legally live and work in the United States. Dreamers hold important jobs in health care, agriculture, food processing, and education, and contrary to popular belief, ending the program would cost the United States billions of dollars – much more than the contesting states claim to be paying for Dreamer-related services.
The Future of DACA
President Biden is at work on an ambitious plan that would allow Dreamers and 10 million other immigrants to gain legal status in the United States. Although creating a path for Dreamers has gained bipartisan support, Biden is still trying to rally support for his larger plan in Congress.
For now, many Dreamers feel doubt and anxiety when it comes to starting their lives and careers in the United States. Still, immigration advocates encourage those eligible for DACA to apply. The Department of Homeland Security is still accepting new applications but cannot approve them until the program’s fate is decided. Even in legal battles, however, the courts are unlikely to dismiss all existing or hopeful Dreamers, and the government is working on keeping DACA – and Dreamers – safe.
As an immigration leader explains to The New York Times:
“Unless Congress acts for the Dreamers, DACA is likely to be entangled in litigation and legal doubt for a while.”
The woman who inspired the original DREAM Act echoes:
“Until there is a real immigration reform for all 11 million undocumented people, DACA is never going to be enough.”
While the Biden administration does what it can to secure the future for Dreamers and other immigrants, those eligible for DACA should apply before it’s too late.