A DACA Anniversary Amid Uncertain Future

A DACA Anniversary Amid Uncertain Future
Photo by K E / Unsplash

Over the weekend the Biden Administration celebrated the twelfth anniversary of DACA with a poignant video highlighting several Dreamers who have benefited from the policy. The acknowledgment of the anniversary arrives as the Obama-era program has been hobbled by a hostile court system and faces a potentially grimmer future. 

In 2012, President Obama announced DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which would permit young immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain temporarily in the country with two-year work visas. Ever since its announcement, DACA has been a target of Republicans hostile towards expanding immigration.

In 2015, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a multi-state effort against DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) as well as an expansion of DACA. Two years later, Paxton demanded DACA be rescinded in full or he would amend the lawsuit. Soon, the Trump-era Justice Department announced that DACA was rescinded in September 2017 and within six months they would stop processing renewals. Several lawsuits followed and injunctions kept the program alive, but essentially on life support.

Texas once again led the way in a case, Texas v. United States, to challenge the legality of DACA in 2018. The case, filed in the Southern District of Texas, landed with District Court Judge Andrew Hanen. In July 2021, Hanen ruled that DACA is unlawful, but he allowed the two-year renewals to remain for current recipients. The Fifth Circuit sent the case back to Hanen but upheld his decision that DACA is unlawful.

In 2022, the Biden Administration announced a formal rule that was meant to fortify DACA amidst the persistent legal challenges. Last year, Judge Hanen ruled that proclamation from the Biden administration was unlawful. As before, he has allowed current DACA recipients to renew their status every two years. The Fifth Circuit will be hearing an appeal.

Tomorrow, the Biden Administration will be holding a formal ceremony at the White House to celebrate the anniversary of DACA. President Biden is expected to make a speech outlining several policy announcements regarding immigration. Immigration advocates are hopeful that announcements will include work permits for Dreamers and protections for the undocumented spouses of current American citizens.

The ramifications of ending new enrollees into DACA has been acutely felt in Texas. According to the immigration advocacy organization FWD.us, by 2025, no undocumented high school graduates will be eligible for DACA under the current guidelines. Texas has the largest number of undocumented high school graduates at 18,000.