Articles Posted in DACA/DAPA

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Photo by Molly Adams

On Friday August 31, 2018, Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have put a stop to the DACA program immediately. As we previously reported, the fate of the DACA program now rests in Judge Hanen’s hands, who is currently presiding over a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas along with seven other states (State of Texas, et al., v. the United States of America, et al.). At issue in that case is (1) whether the creation of DACA violated the Constitution (2) whether the DACA program violates the substantive and procedural requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Texas, along with other states, are collectively asking the Court to provide declaratory and injunctive relief temporarily halting the DACA program, as well as a court ruling finding the DACA program unconstitutional. According to Texas, the DACA program is illegal because its creation violated the procedural and substantive aspects of the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition, Texas argues that the program violates the Take Care Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

On Friday, the judge issued a ruling on the States’ collective request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the government from issuing or renewing DACA permits. In response to the States’ request for a preliminary injunction, Judge Hanen wrote a lengthy 117-page opinion drawing on the need to exercise judicial restraint with regard to DACA, “the failure of Congress to act [with regard to DACA] does not bestow legislative authority on either the Executive or Judicial branches, and the need for legislation cannot take precedence over the application of the Constitution and the laws of the United States….”

Hanen sealed his opinion with a forceful statement regarding his sentiments toward DACA, “Unfortunately the Judiciary is not the branch of government designed to salvage a program that should have emanated from Congress, or at the very least complied with the APA…This court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action. If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

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A federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld a decision from the lower courts ordering the complete restoration of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The new ruling gives the Trump administration a 20-day deadline to implement the complete restoration of the program or file an appeal. The District Court judge behind the order stated in his ruling that the Trump administration failed to justify its decision to end the DACA program, which protected approximately 800,000 young adults from deportation.

The Trump administration plans to appeal the ruling using the 20-day delay granted by the judge in the ruling. Today the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued a statement following the court decision stating that the Trump administration strongly disagrees with the decision adding that, “The executive branch’s authority to simply rescind a policy, established only by a letter from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is clearly established. The Department of Justice will take every lawful measure to vindicate the Department of Homeland Security’s lawful rescission of DACA.”

The attorney general claimed that the Obama administration “violated its duty to enforce our immigration laws” by allowing the establishment of the DACA program and the catch and release policy,” that the current administration not only had the authority to withdraw from the DACA program but had a duty to do so. The Trump administration has interpreted recent court decisions contradicting the termination of the DACA program as an improper use of judicial power.

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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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Federal Judge John Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has spoken to protect Dreamers from deportation, where Congress has remained silent. In a Tuesday ruling, Judge Bates called the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to rescind the DACA program “arbitrary and capricious,” and with no sufficient basis to justify rescission of the program, ordered DHS to accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.

As part of his opinion Judge Bates vacated the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA, for a period of 90 days, giving the Department of Homeland Security an opportunity to explain its decision to rescind the DACA program. If the government fails to adequately explain the grounds for finding the DACA program to be unlawful, DHS must accept and process new and renewal DACA applications. DHS has responded to the ruling in a statement where it vowed to “continue to vigorously defend” its decision to rescind the DACA program and looks “forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

This ruling is the third in recent months against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program.  Earlier this year, Federal Judges in Brooklyn and San Francisco issued similar rulings to keep the DACA program in place, however the Bates ruling is the first ordering the government to accept new DACA applications.

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President Donald Trump is digging his heels in on DACA, although he is perhaps much more interested in securing $25 billion in funding, to build his long-promised wall between the United States and Mexico. On Friday, Congress voted to pass a $1.3 trillion spending bill, designed to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2018.

Early on Friday, the President delivered a threatening message to Congress via Twitter, intimating that he would veto the spending bill, because it did not provide any relief to DACA recipients such as a path to citizenship. The President however failed to mention that also absent from the bill, was a promise from Congress to fully fund the President’s border wall.

Hours later, the President spoke to reporters and said that he had decided to sign the spending bill, despite the absence of a bipartisan compromise for Dreamers, because the bill ultimately provided much-needed funding for the military. The President told reporters, “My highest duty is to keep America safe. We need to take care of our military. I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again.”

The President blamed the Democrats for failing to reach a deal with Republicans that would put Dreamers on a path to citizenship tweeting this morning, “DACA was abandoned by the Democrats. Very unfair to them! Would have been tied to desperately needed wall.” The President has vehemently insisted that any legislative action providing relief to Dreamers, must also concede $25 million in funding to his administration to build the border wall.

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Last week, the United States Senate began much-anticipated debates to reach a deal on immigration before the March 5th deadline imposed by the President. Debates in the Senate last week however were unavailing with both parties blaming one another for their inability to come up with a solution that would protect thousands of DACA recipients from deportation. To make matters worse the President issued a firestorm of tweets attacking leaders of the Democratic party and criticizing sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Should Congress fail to enact legislation to shield Dreamers from deportation by March 5th, thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children will begin to lose their protection from deportation and the ability to work legally in the United States.

In the weeks ahead, Congress must also focus their efforts to pass a spending bill to permanently fund the government. Currently, the government is running on a short-term spending bill which expires midnight on March 23rd. Failure to pass a spending bill that permanently funds the government would mean yet another government shutdown. This urgent need to pass a spending bill may present an opportunity for Congress to finally reach a solution on top immigration priorities and seal the future of DACA recipients. Top immigration priorities for Republicans include building a wall between the United States and Mexico, beefing up the presence of border patrol agents and law enforcement, ending “Chain-Migration,” the diversity visa lottery program, while Democrats remain focused on creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and strongly oppose ending “Chain-Migration.” However, it would not be surprising if Congress fails to safeguard the status of DACA recipients given that members of Congress have on previous occasions failed to come up with a bipartisan solution.

Since October, approximately 122 young undocumented immigrants have had their DACA-permits expire on a daily basis, which is expected to add up to 22,000 immigrants by March 5th. Approximately 668,000 immigrants have been issued work permits under DACA that will not expire until March 5th or later.

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Various news media outlets are reporting that the Supreme Court will hold a closed-door meeting today Friday, February 16, 2018 to decide whether the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a lower court opinion which temporarily blocked the President’s move to end the Obama era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, making it possible for DACA recipients to apply for a renewal of their DACA benefits.

The closed-door meeting was prompted after the Justice Department formally asked the Supreme Court to review a federal judge’s January ruling, blocking the administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Justice Department in making such a request is seeking to bypass lower court proceedings, asking the Supreme Court for direct review, instead of appealing the lower court’s decision before a federal appellate court.

According to a law professor from the University of Texas School of Law, the court has not granted certiorari before judgment since the year 2004, and has not done so without a circuit-level ruling since 1988.

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IMPORTANT UPDATE: On February 14, 2018 USCIS announced that due to federal court orders issued on January 9, 2018 and February 13, 2018, USCIS will resume accepting requests to renew a grant of deferred action under the DACA program. Please read our post below to determine whether you qualify for a renewal request. 

File Your DACA Renewal Request Immediately

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On Sunday night, a group of Republican Senators met to draft the Republican party’s version of the President’s immigration framework, in preparation for a floor debate that will take place Monday night on immigration. The Republican bill is one of many proposals that will be considered by the Senate as part of the ongoing immigration debate. The proposed bill, known as the Secure and Succeed Act of 2018, drafted by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton, and Joni Ernst, mirrors the Trump administration’s immigration framework.

Over the next few weeks Senators will vigorously debate and amend proposals on immigration with the goal of coming up with a piece of legislation that can garner at least 60 votes in the Senate to advance to the House of Representatives. The process will involve a free-for-all debate on the Senate floor that will allow Senators to propose amendments, with the goal of coming up with a bipartisan solution to shield Dreamers from deportation.

The GOP currently has a 51-49 majority in the Senate, making it necessary for Republicans to obtain support from Democratic Senators to reach the 60-vote threshold. Republicans have a large enough majority in the House of Representatives that they do not need a single Democratic vote to pass desired legislation.

Path to Citizenship for Dreamers

The Republican proposal focuses on providing a 12-year path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people including DACA eligible recipients. Undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA would receive a 2-year credit allowing them to obtain citizenship within 10 years. The criteria to obtain citizenship would require an individual to have:

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In this post, we will discuss the limited circumstances in which applicants may request a fee exemption for Form I-765 filed in connection with a renewal request for consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

In most cases the filing fee to request a renewal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals cannot be waived, but fee exemptions are available in the following limited circumstances:

  • Applicants under 18 years of age who are homeless, in foster care, or otherwise lack parental or other familial support, with income that is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level may seek a fee exemption
  • Applicants who cannot care for themselves because of a serious chronic disability with an income that is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level may claim a fee exemption
  • Applicants, who at the time of their request, have accumulated $10,000 or more in debt in the past 12 months, as the result of unreimbursed medical expenses for themselves or family members, receiving an income that is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level may claim an exemption of the filing fee

To determine whether your income is less than 150% of the U.S. poverty level please reference the chart below:

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In order to be considered for a fee exemption, applicants must submit a letter and supporting documentation demonstrating that they fall into one of the above-mentioned categories. Applicants must first file a request for a fee exemption and receive an approved fee exemption, before filing a request for consideration of deferred action on Form I-821D.  Applicants may not submit Forms I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS without a record that a fee exemption has been approved.

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