The Trump administration has worked to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years and now the program has been reinstated following the order of a federal judge. Starting Monday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would grant approved applicants work permits and deportation deferrals that last for two years and allow DACA recipients to request permission to travel abroad under certain circumstances. There are about 660,880 DACA recipients across the country with a majority living in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas.
The Trump administration tried terminating the program in 2017, but the US Supreme Court blocked its attempt this June. Following the ruling, the DHS issued a memo in July signed by Undersecretary of Homeland Security’s Office for Strategy, Policy, and Plans Chad Wolf saying that new applications for DACA would not be accepted and renewals would be limited to one year instead of two.
That very memo is now part of their undoing as in the case of Batalla Vidal v. Wolf when Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Wolf was not lawfully acting secretary of Homeland Security when he issued the memorandum, VOX reports. Since Wolf purported to be more than the undersecretary in his memorandum. In November of 2019, President Trump named Wolf acting Secretary of Homeland Security, and Wolf signed his July memo as “Acting Secretary.” Vox reports that this distinction matters because as undersecretary, Wolf would not have had the power to make changes to DACA, but the Secretary of Homeland Security does.
“Because Mr. Wolf was without lawful authority to serve as Acting Secretary of OHS, the Wolf Memorandum is VACATED,” Garaufis wrote in his most recent order. This is a major win for those eligible for DACA who have been been in limbo for the past three years. Though there are Republicans who still consider it unlawful — a hearing on the case is set for Dec. 22 — President-Elect Joe Biden pledged to not only fully reinstate DACA but also create a path toward citizenship.
In order to be eligible for DACA, applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, lived in the country since at least 2007, and earned a high school diploma, a GED, or served honorably in the military. DACA does not allow its recipients to request green cards or U.S. citizenship.
“Today’s ruling opens the door for more than one million immigrant youth who have been unfairly denied their chance to apply for DACA and secure their future in this country,” Karen Tumlin, the director of the Justice Action Center, told CBS News. “Our brave plaintiffs have said from the beginning of this lawsuit that their home is here, and the court rightly recognized that today.”