DACA and DAPA: What do they mean for the US?

On June 23, 2016, the case US v Texas tied in the Supreme Court – putting the immigration reform movement on hold.

Four years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created a program that would protect those who came to the United States as undocumented children from deportation.

This program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), enables a person to attend school and work in the United States without fear of deportation for two years.

This person must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, arrived in the United States before his or her 16th birthday, and lived in the country continuously since 2007. The immigrant must also have a clean criminal record and meet other requirements.

While the program does not grant DACA recipients lawful status, individuals can renew their DACA as long as they still meet guidelines.

DACA’s economic role

Immigration control has been a long-standing and expensive problem in the US. Deporting all undocumented immigrants is costly and take about 20 years.

The Obama administration decided in 2012 that it would be more efficient to focus resources on deporting criminals rather than “low-priority” cases, such as people who came to the US as children and are contributing to economic growth.

Since 2012, over 728,000 people have received DACA out of the 1.17 million immigrants who are eligible. Because DACA recipients are issued Social Security numbers, they are able to pay taxes and contribute to the economy.

DAPA, DACA+, and US v Texas

Some have speculated that if DACA were expanded to include a broader class of children with deferred action for three years rather than two, undocumented immigrants who are attending school or working could further benefit the US economy.

In November 2014, President Obama announced the expansion of DACA (known as “DACA+”) and the creation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). A federal judge in Texas, however, blocked these executive orders in 2015.

The judge claimed that Obama did not have the authority to establish these programs because he had taken executive action without involving the states (through a legislative process). This US v Texas case was appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, whose judges also agreed with stopping the implementation of DAPA and DACA+.

What now?

The Supreme Court heard the US v Texas case in April and again on June 23, 2016, but the tie indicates that no clear decision has been made. Until the case returns to the Supreme Court, immigrants are advised to still apply for the original 2012 DACA if they are eligible.

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