The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been batted around by the courts in recent years. While different rulings and challenges have threatened the program’s existence, as of July 2019, DACA is in a relatively stable place.
Instituted by a previous White House administration in 2012, DACA allows some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children – referred to as Dreamers – to receive protection from deportation, as well as a work permit, if they meet certain criteria. So, with how things currently stand, what are those criteria? And who can apply for deferred action?
The initial criteria
In recent years the DACA program has faced challenges from the current White House administration, resulting in some changes to how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approaches requests. As of July 2019, USCIS requires applicants to first meet the original 2012 guidelines. That means applicants:
- Must be at least 15 years old
- Can not have been older than 31 as of June 2012
- Must have arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, and by June 15, 2012
- Must have lived in the U.S. for at least five consecutive years
- Must meet education or armed services conditions, as well as criminal background check standards
However, those criteria are no longer enough. USCIS has placed further restrictions on who can currently apply for DACA protections.
Only renewals – no new applicants
USCIS, as of July 2019, is only accepting renewal applications. That means the agency is not even considering requests from people who have never applied for DACA before – even if they meet the previous requirements.
So, if you would be applying for DACA for the first time, you are not currently eligible. USCIS will reject your request.
Those people applying for a renewal must meet some additional criteria laid out by USCIS. That includes:
- They did not leave the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole
- They have continuously lived in the U.S. since submitting their most recent approved DACA request
- They cannot have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors
- They cannot otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In addition, as of Aug. 1, 2019, USCIS is instituting a one-year window for filing a renewal after an expired DACA period.
What will happen to DACA?
The future of the deferred action program is unclear. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the high-profile DACA case during its upcoming term, which starts in October. That means the public likely won’t get a ruling until well into 2020.
For the time being, the program appears as if it will operate under these current rules and regulations, only allowing for renewals. But the Supreme Court’s determination could change that – anything from opening the door for more Dreamers to shuttering the program altogether.