DACA Deadline May Be Obsolete, But Uncertainty is Increasing for Dreamers

The original date the Trump administration set for the expiration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was March 5th, 2018. However, legal challenges and congressional inaction have delayed the end of the program, but it has not brought any relief to the nearly 800,000 Dreamers, the immigrants who are currently shielded from deportation and allowed to work and go to school under DACA.

On February 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court refused the Trump administration’s request to weigh in on the status of Dreamers. The court denied the Justice Department’s request for an expedited hearing on the legality of the program, saying it would wait until the lower courts rule before taking up the contentious immigration issue.

With the Supreme Court’s inaction on February 26, 2018 and the pending appeals in California and New York courts, the DACA program will be extended beyond March 5th. However, with the courts battling over the future of the program and no signs indicating Congress will resolve the issue legislatively, the fate of Dreamers has become even more uncertain.

The nationwide injunctions may have bought extra time for Dreamers to re-apply for work permits and protected status. The government will be required to continue accepting DACA renewal applications until and unless another court rules otherwise.

Despite the temporary continuation of DACA, there is still a big question mark over the timing of that court decision. It could come in a matter of weeks or months, and it is unclear how it will be resolved. There is also the further likelihood that either side could appeal a ruling and the Supreme Court could again be asked to weigh in on the legality of ending DACA. Further, Trump could dismantle the program through executive action, regardless of the injunction, because it was originally implemented through executive action.

DACA recipients who failed to re-apply have become ineligible for protected status and work permits and the Department of Homeland Security stopped accepting new applicants to the program months ago. Other limitations on DACA eligibility include criminality, not being enrolled in school or unemployment. Moreover, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement have said they will not prioritize former DACA recipients for removal, ICE leadership has also made it clear that anyone in the country illegally is subject to removal. That includes DACA recipients whose status has lapsed.

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