DACA Ruling Explained



On June 15, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation initiating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, to legally stay and work in the country. Under the program’s terms, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) offers deferment of removal for eligible candidates for the period of two years with the option of renewal. In addition to that, DACA recipients can also receive employment authorization, however, DACA provides neither  legal status nor path to U.S. citizenship. 

In November 2014, President Obama made several attempts in further expanding DACA eligibility requirements by accepting applications from the individuals who had been continuously living in the country since 2010, and not since 2012, as it was required initially, and by removing the age requirement. His attempts were halted when 26 Republican-governed states asked the court to stop implementation of the proposed changes. The President’s appeals were not successful, and subsequently the Supreme Court voted equally against and for the proposal, thus leaving the appellate court’s decision intact and DACA eligibility requirements unchanged. 


The program’s impact on the U.S. economy and possible security threats were topics of controversy since the very beginning. Further, the program’s critics challenged the lawfulness of DACA, claiming that President Obama abused his executive power and initiated it without congressional approval. President Donald Trump promised to reform the Obama Administration’s immigration policies during his presidential campaign and intended to discontinue DACA after coming to office. On September 5, 2017, it was announced that DACA implementation would be gradually repealed because it allegedly had a negative impact on employment opportunities for Americans, because DACA recipients could take over their jobs and with that push up the unemployment rate among the U.S. citizens. This was considered as one of the leading causes of the immigration crisis the country had been experiencing since 2014, when thousands of unaccompanied minors from Latin America entered the U.S. with no lawful immigration status. Existing DACA recipients were given a chance to renew their work authorizations for two more years, after which they would become deportable, and no new applications would be accepted. This decision faced harsh criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, as well human rights and religious organizations, and a wave of protests rolled across the country. Several lawsuits were brought to the court challenging the rescission, deeming it unlawful and unconstitutional. On January 9, 2018, a district court temporarily blocked the rescission, and on February 13, 2018, the court ordered to continue accepting new and renewal DACA applications. On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of DACA’s continuation, because the Trump Administration failed to provide convincing arguments justifying their decision to end the program, and on July 17, 2020, a district judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security to fully restore the program. Trump Administration’s further attempts to end DACA were unsuccessful, and, finally, on January 20, 2021, on the very first day of his presidency, Joe Biden issued a presidential proclamation, stating that his administration intends to fully reinstate DACA and continue to accept new and renewal applications for the program. 


According to several studies, DACA has brought positive results overall. It was found that the DACA program caused decrease in number of undocumented immigrants living in poverty and had no significant impact on the unemployment rate of Americans, which was the main argument of the the program’s critics, and that on the contrary, it has a positive effect on the nation’s economy, because many of the DACA recipients who were granted employment authorization had degrees and were skilled workers. Some researchers even argue that ending DACA would have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, because, again, the DACA recipients are young and many of them are enrolled in degree programs, which would increase their salary in the future and provide a supply of young professionals. Also, it would cost several billion dollars to hire and retrain new professionals in case the DACA recipients were denied work authorization and deported. According to the Center for American Progress, eliminating the DACA program and deportation of its recipients would reduce the nation’s GDP by some $433 billion over a decade. Moreover, it has not been established that DACA recipients are more prone to committing crime than U.S. citizens, and quite the opposite, the program’s elimination might push some of them to engage in illegal activities. Other findings showed that DACA has a positive impact on the psychological well-being of its recipients, who have lived for many years under the fear of being deported and overall stress of not having a stable future and status in the country. However, many negative and anxious feelings remain in place, because DACA recipients often have immediate family members with no legal status and who are not eligible for the program, therefore, are removable from the U.S. 


To be eligible for the program, applicants must meet several criteria. First of all, there is the age requirement, specifically, applicants must be under the age of 16 at the moment of their arrival to the U.S., they also must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Besides that, they must live continuously in the country since June 15, 2007, remain physically present in the U.S. as of June 15, 2012, and have no legal status. They must not have been convicted of a serious crime or three or more misdemeanors, and finally, they must be enrolled in a school, have a high school diploma or an equivalent, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the military. 



Applicants should file the following forms with the USCIS:

  • I-821D form, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, indicating whether it’s an initial application or a renewal request. 
  • I-765 form, Application for Employment Authorization.
  • I-765 Worksheet as a supplement to the Application for Employment Authorization, where applicants must demonstrate their need of employment, by indicating their current annual income and expenses, as well as the current value of their assets. 

In addition to that, applicants must submit: 

  • One proof of identity. An applicant must have one of the following: a birth certificate with photo; a foreign national’s passport; school or military ID with photo; or any other government-issued document containing the applicant’s name and photo.
  • One proof of arrival to the U.S. before the applicant’s 16th birthday. Applicants must have at least one document proving they were physically present in the country by their 16th birthday. The list of acceptable documents includes, but is not limited to: a travel passport with admission stamps; a form I-94, I-95, or I-95W; any other travel records; a document from Immigration and Naturalization Service of Department of Homeland Security showing the date of entry; any mortgage or property rental agreement;  U.S. school records; U.S. hospital or medical records; employment records, such as paystubs or W-2 forms; an insurance agreement; a bank statement; or a birth certificate of a U.S.- born child. 
  • One proof of applicants’ continuous residence in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and proof of physical presence in the country as of June 15, 2012. Acceptable documents here are the same as from the list of documents proving the physical presence in the country by the 16th birthday, with the addition of military records and any utility bills. 
  • One proof of immigration status. It can be an expired I-94, I-95, or I-95W form; an immigration judge’s deportation or removal decision; or a document showing that the applicant is in removal proceedings.

The fee for DACA application is $495, which includes employment authorization and, in most cases, cannot be waived. However, there are several instances when this rule does not apply. To qualify for the fee waiver, applicants must demonstrate that they either:

  • Are under the age of 18, and their income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level and they are either homeless, or in foster care with no family support.
  • Or their income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level and they have a disability.
  • Or their income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level and they have at least $10,000.00 in debt for medical expenses for themselves or for a close relative, accumulated in the past 12 months. 

Applicants who are eligible for a fee waiver must submit a proof of their homelessness and lack of family support and financial documents showing that their income is less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level, such as pay stubs, bank statements, and tax returns, or an affidavit from a third party stating that the applicant has no income to prove eligibility for the fee waiver. To prove that the applicants have unpaid medical bills, USCIS requires the applicant to submit medical or insurance records, bank stamens, or any other evidence. However, it is important to note that even if the DACA fee is waived, the employment authorization fee still must be paid. 

All applicants must apply for DACA status renewal during the window of 150 days to 120 days before its expiration date and pay another $495 fee.  

The required forms, supporting documents, and the payment should be mailed in one package to the appropriate USCIS lockbox. To check the application status, applicants can create an account with USCIS for online status tracking. If needed, applicants may submit an address change online as well. Once the application is received by USCIS, the applicant will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment. After the biometrics are submitted, it usually takes USCIS up to 90 days to process the application and mail the decision. In case USCIS approves a DACA application, the applicant will receive an approval notice and an employment authorization card in a separate mail. It is important to note that since September 2017, DACA recipients are not allowed to leave the U.S. for international travel and later return to the country under parole. In case the USCIS does not approve the application, unfortunately, this decision cannot be appealed or reconsidered. 

Photo by Annie Spratt


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