Former President Barack Obama established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program by executive order in 2012. It was Obama’s response to Congress’s failure to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that was meant to give young undocumented immigrants a pathway to permanent residency. Implemented through a memorandum from former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DACA shields undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation and grants them work authorization for two-year renewable periods. DACA recipients are often referred to as DREAMers, in reference to the DREAM Act.
To be eligible for DACA, immigrants must have entered the country before they were sixteen, lived in the country continuously since June 15, 2007, been under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012, and been physically present in the United States on that date. In addition, they have to either be in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or Coast Guard; and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors, or otherwise be considered a threat to national security or public safety.
Since 2012, DACA has been the subject of numerous lawsuits from states claiming the federal policy is an overreach of executive power. The Trump administration announced it was ending the program on September 5, 2017. But on June 18, 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s method of ending of the DACA program was unlawful and restored the program completely, ordering USCIS to accept both initial and renewal DACA applications. Still, people trying to apply for new DACA status or renew their status have run into roadblocks.