On June 15, 2017, the fifth anniversary of the Obama administration’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which had never been implemented due to court challenges. In contrast to DAPA, since its inception, the DACA program has provided a temporary reprieve from removal, employment authorization, and other benefits to roughly 788,000 undocumented persons who entered the United States as children and who meet other criteria. In its post on DAPA’s rescission, DHS seemed to indicate that DACA recipients would “continue to be eligible” for this program under the terms of the original memorandum that established DACA, and that they could seek an extension at the end of their current period of eligibility. On June 16, 2017, however, DHS “clarified” that the future of the DACA program remained under review and that no decision had been made on its extension.
CMS has released several papers and reports – which merit particular attention at this juncture – on the importance of the DACA program and on the strong ties and contributions to the United States of potential DACA and DAPA recipients. In a 2016 paper in its Journal on Migration and Human Security (JMHS) titled “Potential Beneficiaries of the Obama Administration’s Executive Action Programs Deeply Embedded in US Society,” CMS offered a statistical portrait of the DACA- and DAPA-eligible. It found that “potential DAPA, DACA, and DACA-plus recipients are deeply embedded in US society, with high employment rates, extensive US family ties, long tenure, and substantial rates of English-language proficiency.” The paper also highlighted the many groups that “would benefit indirectly from the full implementation of DAPA and DACA” and “would suffer from the removal of potential beneficiaries of these programs,” including those who rely on the retirement programs of the US government and US citizens who depend on the income of DAPA-eligible residents, including parents. A 2015 JMHS paper titled “Beyond DAPA and DACA: Revisiting Legislative Reform in Light of Long-Term Trends in Unauthorized Immigration to the United States,” argued for a legalization program and broader immigration reform based on the characteristics of the US undocumented population, including potential DAPA and DACA beneficiaries. Finally, in February, 2017, CMS released a detailed report on the benefits and successful implementation of the DACA program, titled “The DACA Era and the Continuous Legalization Work of the US Immigrant-Serving Community.” This report found that: (1) a significant percentage of the US undocumented population is potentially eligible for an immigration benefit or relief, but does not know it or has decided not to pursue it for financial or other reasons; (2) increased screening of the undocumented would place large numbers of undocumented residents on a path to legal status, even without a change in the law; (3) DACA saw substantial growth in “whole of community” responses to immigrant service-delivery and community organizing; and (4) public education of immigrants, lawmakers, policy influencers, researchers, and the general public is crucial to effective community mobilization for DACA.
All of this work highlights the need for a path to permanent legal status for a substantial percentage the US undocumented population, including DACA beneficiaries and those who would have been covered by DAPA.