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DHS will begin accepting new DACA applications following a court order. Photo: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
DHS will begin accepting new DACA applications following a court order. Photo: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Dreamers can finally apply for DACA after three years in limbo

The Department of Homeland Security updated its website to indicate the DACA program has been restored.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Dec. 7  that it will be compliant with a recent federal judge ruling, ordering the Trump administration to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Issued on Dec. 4 by Judge Nicholas Garaufis, the court order called for the Trump administration to reinstate the program within three days. 

The DHS said it would grant approved applicants work permits and deportation deferrals that last for two years and allow DACA-holders to request permission to travel abroad under certain circumstances.

This marks a significant step for prior DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants who are eligible for the program, but had been blocked from applying because of the Trump administration’s efforts since 2017.

Garaufis' order reinforces his November ruling that Chad Wolf had been serving as acting DHS Secretary illegally when he signed rules limiting applications and renewals for the DACA.

DHS has since tried to install Pete Gaynor, the Senate-confirmed Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator to the position — temporarily— to mitigate concerns over Wolf’s legitimacy. 

"Neither Administrator Gaynor nor Mr. Wolf currently possesses, nor have they ever possessed, the powers of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security," Garaufis wrote in a footnote of his order.

The Trump administration unsuccessfully attempted to end DACA in 2017, but nearly three years later, the Supreme Court blocked its attempt in June. However, that victory was short-lived, as the Court’s favor relied on a technicality, which gave an opening for the Trump administration to fix. 

It wasn’t until Garaufis presented his court order that it appeared DACA recipients and Dreamers were out of limbo for the first time since 2017.

"I don't think there's any immigration attorney in the country who would tell you they thought DACA would be fully in its 2012 shape in December 2020 of the Trump administration," Karen Tumlin, a lawyer and founder of the Justice Action Center, told CBS News.

But while it has so far complied with the order issued by Garaufis, DHS indicated it may make moves for an appeal. 

“DHS will comply with Judge Garaufis’ order while it remains in effect, but DHS may seek relief from the order,” reads the end of the release posted by DHS.  

Any efforts to appeal will likely be short-lived. With just over 40 days left in Trump’s presidency, President-elect Biden’s administration will usher-in a new DHS.

Prior to Garaufis’ ruling, Biden had promised to fully restore DACA upon assuming the presidency. Recently, he nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to lead DHS. He would be the first Latino to do so.

Mayorkas previously served as director of USCIS and DHS deputy director.

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