Biden Administration Moves to ‘Protect and Fortify’ DACA

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DACA supporters outside the White House, September 2017. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Biden administration on Monday issued a regulation to “protect and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The Department of Homeland Security’s proposal would re-create the program, which protects 600,000 young immigrations from deportation, through a formal regulation.

The new rule is an effort to save the Obama-era program, which has been the subject of several legal challenges since it was first implemented in 2012.

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The move comes after a federal judge in Texas ruled that DACA was unlawful in July, given that Congress had not granted the government the necessary authority to create the program.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the program had not been properly implemented as the government also did not create an opportunity to receive public feedback and because it did not adequately consider the effects of the program on states.

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Hanen said the policy should have been enacted through a federal regulation instead of a Department of Homeland Security memo.

The Justice Department appealed the ruling earlier this month.

The new proposal would keep most of the same parameters of the original DACA program. It would have the same eligibility criteria, which require that individuals must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. Applicants are also required to be in school or have graduated, to have not been convicted of a felony and to not be a threat to national security of public safety.

It would still grant two years of deportation protection and a two-year work permit for a $495 fee. However, under the new proposal applicants could decide to pay a lower fee of $85 to be protected from deportation without the work permit.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the proposal “an important step” in working to protect “Dreamers”— those who are protected under DACA — but called on Congress to “act swiftly” to include immigration reform in Democrats’ reconciliation bill.

“The Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal. However, only Congress can provide permanent protection. I support the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill and urge Congress to act swiftly to provide Dreamers the legal status they need and deserve.”

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