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This past June, many rallied at the U.S. Capitol over DACA.
This past June, many rallied at the U.S. Capitol over DACA. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Biden Admin reinforces DACA working towards a shield from legal challenges and protecting its recipients

On Wed., Aug 24, Pres. Biden finalized a rule to further protect the Obama-era program that has given opportunities to hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth.

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It has been a hectic and busy summer for President Joe Biden and his administration following political turmoil, but also a string of recent wins in the past couple of months that have brought some hope after initial pessimism. 

Following the president's return from Summer vacation this week, along with announcing the further extension of the student loan pause and finally some student debt forgiveness, the Biden Administration announced another key rule that will help hundreds of thousands of marginalized youth. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the Biden Administration moved forward and finalized a rule that would preserve and protect the Obama-era’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), that will help over 600,000 DACA recipients, or Dreamers as they are known. The rule would transform the program into a federal regulation moving it closer to coveted protection from legal challenges and save it from a potential repeal, something that many have feared would happen as opposition continues to look for legal avenues. 

“Dreamers are part of the fabric of this nation. They serve on the frontlines of the pandemic response. They are students, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Many serve bravely in our military. They’ve only ever known America as their home,” Biden said in a statement.

The Department of Homeland Security finalized the 453-page rule set to take effect on Oct. 31. It will officially codify the rule, which had been governed by former President Barack Obama’s memo for the last decade, into the official federal government’s code of regulations. 

DACA, since its founding by Obama, has given hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth in America the opportunity to work and get a quality education, more importantly, without fear of deportation. According to government data from the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, as of March 31, 611,270 people are enrolled in the DACA program. 

“Ten years ago, I stood by President Obama as he announced one of our proudest accomplishments — creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Dreamers by allowing them to live here and contribute their talents to this great country without fear of removal,” said Biden. “Today, we are fulfilling our commitment to preserve and strengthen DACA by finalizing a rule that will reinforce protections, like work authorization, that allow Dreamers to live more freely and to invest in their communities more fully.”

The new rule comes after many years of fear stemming from the Trump Administration and even recent challenges from Republicans in all sectors of government looking to challenge and even repeal the program entirely. This includes a judge in Texas who last year ordered the U.S. to close the program to new applicants. He cited that the administration did not have the legal authority to offer deportation relief and work permits to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. 

With some new technical rules overall, the program is maintaining its original structure, which will still require applicants to prove they arrived in the U.S. by age 16, and before 2007, studied in an American school or served in the military, and must lack any kind of serious criminal offenses or record. Under the new ruling, Dreamers will be able to get work permits, and for the purposes of immigration applications, they will be considered to be “lawfully present” in the U.S. 

Despite the protections and further boosts the rule gives DACA, the program still faces an uncertain legal future. 

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen, who in July of 2021, closed DACA off to new applicants, ruled that the policy is in violation of federal immigration law — a point that Texas and other Republican-led states have argued in the past. 

The Biden administration appealed Hanen’s ruling, which led to a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing in July, and are expected to give their answer on the program's legality later on this year. The Court of Appeals is Republican-leaning and is expected to side with Republicans on the grounds of its supposed violation. Biden will likely appeal that to the Supreme Court. 

The ongoing legal disputes about the case can harm the future of the program. It could keep the program closed off to new applicants as well as possibly lead to its complete termination as a program. If that were to happen, all Dreamers would be barred from working and living legally in the U.S., making them eligible for deportation. 

Under the Biden Administration, they would not be prioritized. In relation to immigration and immigration reform, it continues to be an unchanged issue. 

“I will do everything within my power to protect Dreamers, but Congressional Republicans should stop blocking a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do for our economy and our communities,” Biden said.

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