President Joe Biden issued a memorandum on his first day of office (January 20, 2021), directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary and the Attorney General to take all appropriate legal actions “to preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Currently, approximately 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children are enrolled in the program.
DACA was enacted under the Obama administration in 2012 and provides “Dreamers” (DACA recipients) with protections against deportation and authorization to legally work in the country. In 2017, however, President Donald Trump announced to end the program, which resulted to a lengthy legal battle that lasted years.
In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the DHS under the former administration failed to take the proper steps to terminate DACA. In response to the ruling by the nation’s highest court, then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said the agency would refuse to accept all new DACA applications and reduce the length of renewals from one year to two years.
However, a federal judge in New York ordered the Trump administration to fully restore DACA as of December 7, 2020. The DHS then announced that USCIS had resumed accepting both new applications and renewals under the terms in place prior to the program being rescinded in 2017.
In addition to strengthening DACA, President Biden has also submitted a sweeping immigration reform bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and tens of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Under the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, DACA recipients – as well as immigrants with temporary protective status (TPS) and undocumented farmers – would immediately qualify for green cards if they are employed, in school, or meet other requirements, and will be eligible for naturalization after three years.
For other undocumented immigrants without legal status, those living in the U.S. as of January 1, 2021, would be able to obtain a green card in five years, if they pass background checks, pay taxes, and complete other requirements. From there, they may apply for citizenship in three years.
If you or a loved one is interested in applying for DACA or renewing your protections in Illinois, Arizona, or Texas, contact Gambacorta Law today at (847) 443-9303 and let us help you achieve the American dream.