What Is DACA? And How Did It End Up in the Supreme Court?

The New York Times 1 month ago

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Tuesday in a case that will serve as an important test of the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda, involving a small but politically powerful group of unauthorized immigrants known as Dreamers.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, offered the group temporary protection from deportation without a pathway to citizenship — a move broadly supported by Americans of all political affiliations.

The justices will determine whether the Trump administration acted lawfully in September 2017 when it ended the program, using a bare-bones rescission memo that legal experts say may have weakened the government’s standing in court.

Here’s what the justices are weighing:

What is DACA?

The program was introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama as a stopgap measure that would shield from deportation people who were brought into the United States as children. The status is renewable, lasting two years at a time. The program does not provide a pathway to citizenship.

Participation in the program comes with a range of benefits. Along with permission to remain in the country, recipients can also get work permits, through which many have obtained health insurance from their employers.

The ability to work has also allowed them to pay for school, pursue higher education and, in some states, drive legally. The program also opened up access to in-state tuition and state-funded grants and loans in some states. And depending on where they live, recipients can also qualify for state-subsidized health care.

Where does DACA stand now?

Since the Trump administration moved to end it in 2017, no new applications to the program have been accepted, but immigrant advocates have managed to keep it partially alive through legal challenges in which lower courts have decided that people who already have the status should be able to renew it until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling.

Who are the Dreamers?

DACA recipients are often referred to as Dreamers, after a similar piece of legislation called the Dream Act, which was introduced in 2001 and would have given its beneficiaries a path to American citizenship. The average DACA holder is now 25 years old, and the oldest is 37; the vast majority came from Mexico, though many others were born in Central and South America, Asia and the Caribbean. The status has been issued to roughly 800,000 people.

Recipients who are not veterans must be enrolled in high school or already have a diploma or G.E.D. to qualify. Anyone with a serious criminal history (defined as a felony or serious misdemeanor conviction, or three misdemeanor convictions) is not eligible. Check out these charts that illustrate their demographics.

Why was the DACA program introduced?

It came about after more than a decade of failed negotiations in Congress over how to deal with the Dreamers. The Dream Act never passed, but it gained widespread popularity among the American electorate and, at various points, both houses of Congress, hatching much of the political activism that is propelling the current debate.

Why was DACA eliminated?

President Trump ended the program in 2017 after nine conservative state attorneys general with hard-line views on immigration threatened to sue him over the policy, arguing that it represented an overreach of presidential power. Mr. Trump had equivocated publicly over the program, but ultimately he called on Congress to come up with a replacement within months.

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