For undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children ("Dreamers"), a new court decision grants a temporary reprieve from deportation. Recently, a federal district court in New York ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) program—an Obama-era initiative that has allowed around 646,000 immigrants to stay in the country and work legally as long as they meet certain eligibility conditions. Batalla Vidal v. Wolf, Civil Action No. 16-CV-4756 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 4, 2020). An estimated 685,000 additional people may be able to apply for DACA under the new ruling. A DHS spokesperson said the agency will appeal the ruling.
Batalla Vidal is the latest chapter in a years-long legal saga. President Obama frequently stated that it would be unconstitutional for him to issue an executive order granting immigration benefits to Dreamers. Ultimately, however, he issued a very controversial memorandum that allowed Dreamers to remain and be employed in the United States. In 2017, the Trump administration tried to rescind the DACA program. The move was immediately challenged. While the litigation made its way through the court system, previous recipients of DACA were allowed to renew their protections, but new applications were paused. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Trump administration had violated the Administrative Procedures Act, but the Court did not decide whether the DACA program was constitutional. In July, a federal judge in Maryland told the government to restore the DACA program to its pre-2017 status and start processing new applications. Then, acting DHS head Chad Wolf issued a new memo in which he specifically forbade new applications while the agency conducted a “comprehensive review” of the program. The memo also required DACA recipients to renew their protections every year, instead of every two years, and placed restrictions on their ability to gain permission from the government to travel abroad.
In compliance with Batalla Vidal, effective December 7, 2020, U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) is:
DHS will comply with Batalla Vidal while it remains in effect, but DHS may seek relief from the order. Applications are available at the www.uscis.gov.
A permanent solution to the Dreamers predicament is legislative. President Trump told Congress that he would sign legislation protecting Dreamers, but Congress did not present a bill for signing. Joe Biden has promised to send a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress within his first 100 days in office that would include a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, but Congress has not been able to pass any significant immigration-related legislation in the past two decades under either Republican or Democrat administrations.
This is part of our January 2021 Newsletter.
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