After a flurry of court rulings, what's up with DACA now?

FILE: Immigrants and supporters rally to oppose President Trump's order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, on Sept. 10, 2017 in Las Vegas.
FILE: Immigrants and supporters rally to oppose President Trump's order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, on Sept. 10, 2017 in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

The future of the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is murky.

Last September, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era program that lets hundreds of thousands of young, unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States as children live and work here legally. At the time, those whose two-year permits were expiring before March 5 were given a month to renew one last time.

The DACA program was then supposed to sunset in March, but three recent court rulings changed that. The new rulings, shifting rules and heated rhetoric around DACA have been confusing to many, DACA recipients among them.

If you're thinking of renewing, or wondering what's the latest on DACA's status, here are some basic facts:

Who can still apply for DACA protection?

Only those who currently have DACA permission to live and work in the U.S. can apply to renew it for another two years. No new applications are being accepted.

You may have heard that Trump rescinded DACA. But in January, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a nationwide injunction that allows current DACA recipients to continue renewing their protection. A second federal judge in New York ruled similarly the following month.

Then in April, a third judge in Washington, D.C., went further, raising the possibility of reopening DACA to new applicants, but only after giving the Trump administration a chance "to better explain its view" for ending DACA.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates gave the administration until late July to come up a good argument for ending the program. If the government can’t do that, officials must begin accepting new DACA applications. 

However, the judge could ultimately agree with the government’s explanation for ending DACA. At that point, the judge could rule that DACA renewals can no longer be accepted. However, some legal experts say that so long as the nationwide injunction from the San Francisco court remains in place, the renewal window would stay open.

Meanwhile, immigration legal service providers say they are coming across some young people who are eligible to renew but didn’t realize they could. Others have been reluctant to re-up because they are afraid of being deported, or simply lack the funds. Filing a DACA renewal costs $495.

The recent decisions, coupled with the initial news of Trump's decision to end DACA, has confused DACA recipients, said Jorge Mario Cabrera with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

"All of that adds up to young people believing that perhaps the program has ended, perhaps the program is going to end within the next few months, 'perhaps there is no more chance for me.' And that is incorrect," Cabrera said.

Federal data show that DACA renewals in the second quarter of this fiscal year are half what they were a year ago. Roughly 70,000 people renewed their DACA status between Jan. 1 and March 31, compared with more than 140,000 a year earlier.

Organizations like Cabrera's that process renewals have been reaching out to DACA recipients and even offering to pay applicants' fees.

Will minors arriving at the southern border now be eligible to apply?

No, they won’t.  Even before DACA was rescinded, people newly arriving in the U.S. could not apply for the program. Only qualified young unauthorized immigrants who had continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, who were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, who were under age 31 as of that date and had arrived in the country before turning 16 were eligible.

In other words, DACA applies to a limited pool of young immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a while now. Immigrant advocates estimated early on that about 1.8 million young people could meet the criteria to apply for the program. This included children younger than 15 who were not yet old enough to apply back in 2012. These younger teens were able to apply for DACA upon turning 15 until September, when the Trump administration rescinded the program. 

So for now, only those who currently have DACA can apply to renew.

Legal service providers say that DACA recipients who file renewal applications before they are due — out of concern they'll lose their opportunity later — can do so. However, they warn, the permit they receive will be valid from the new date it kicks in, and not the old date on their current permit.