What the DACA Program Is and what Is Expected in the Future

Antonio García-Crews

Immigration is a complicated issue in the United States, and even more are the numbers and the categories of immigrants admitted.  For example, one of the initial laws in the United States establishing restrictions in the admission of immigrants was the Exclusion Acts of 1882.  It was conceived to prevent Chinese citizens from coming in our country.  Chinese immigrants had been admitted to work in the west of the U.S. where laborers were needed. The reason for their exclusion was the language and the color of their skin which became unacceptable for some American citizens.  This is just an example of how the racial component has affected immigration laws.

In 1986, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Congress passed a bilateral law named Immigration Reform and Control Act.  It established legalization programs to grant amnesty and legal residency in the U.S. to qualified aliens.  Millions of them benefitted. 

After this opportunity, many years went by before Congress showed any interest in passing another immigration reform law.  The failure of Congress to pass the “Dream Act” -which would have benefitted thousands of young undocumented immigrants who, since then, had entered the U.S. as children brought in by their parents- resulted in serious problems and obstacles for young people raised here to work and/or study.   

On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced a program granting Deferred Action to qualified beneficiaries under the age of 31 who arrived before their 16th birthday.  This program is known as DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals).  

To qualify, the applicant needs to demonstrate:

  1. He/she arrived in the United States before reaching the 16th birthday.
  2. Was physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.
  3. Has continually resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, up to the present time.
  4. Entered without inspection or was out of legal status on June 15, 2012.

Later, on November 20, 2014, President Obama expanded the program to include the elimination of the age cap, establishing the continuous residence requirement date to January 1, 2010 (instead of January 15, 2007) and extending this deferment to 3 years instead of two.  

Effective October 31, 2022, after a decision of the District Court of the Southern District of Texas, the USCIS will accept renewals of DACA, requests for Employment Authorization and advance paroles, but will not grant any new application for DACA.

DACA does not confer legal Residence or any other legal immigration status per se.  At the present time its future is uncertain, but the struggle is not over.  All efforts are now concentrated in the crisis of thousands of desperate human beings at the southern border with Mexico, in spite of warnings that their cases will probably not be processed.  

Antonio García-Crews, JD (University of Miami, ´89) is an immigration lawyer since 1992. He is a member of the International Thomas Merton Society and of the Third Order Saint Francis.