The United States Department of Justice announced earlier this week that over 100,000 undocumented individuals had been granted a three year reprieve from removal or deportation under an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These individuals fall under a specific category of young immigrants who were brought into the United States unlawfully when they were children. Aside from the three year reprieve, this benefit also allows these individuals to obtain work authorization and subsequently state drivers licenses.
The Department of Justice revealed that between November 24 and February 16 of this year 100,000 undocumented individuals were granted the benefit of the three year reprieve from removal or deportation by Federal Immigration Officials. These particular individuals had already qualified for the benefit under the original 2012 DACA guidelines. The original guidelines provided two year reprieves from removal or deportation and the benefit of obtaining lawful work authorization. The newly proposed guidelines extend this reprieve to three years.
Originally the Department of Justice had maintained that requests and applications for the newly expanded DACA program would not begin until after February 18, 2015. However, when it was discovered that 100,000 individuals were accorded the benefits prior to that date, a coalition of states already alleged that the Federal Government purposely misled the federal judge regarding the implementation date, prior to the judge putting a temporary hold on its execution. These same states were already suing to put a halt to President Obama’s new immigration plan.
The president’s new initiative, which was first proposed in November 2014, includes extending the DACA program for current recipients as well as offering it to the parents of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents (greencard holders) who have established residency in the country for several years. The president’s plan for executive action could affect up to five million individuals, currently residing in the United States unlawfully.
The majority of states (26 in total), most of which are Republican strong holds, oppose the president’s plan and claim that it is unconstitutional. They are currently seeking to block it from progressing any further.
On February 16, just last month, the president’s efforts were halted by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, of Brownsville, Texas. The Department of Justice has requested that Judge Hanen lift the current hold while the appeal of his decision is pending. However, Judge Hanen has not decided upon that request to date.
The states opposing the new regulations are outraged that these DACA applications were approved while the lawsuit was pending. Judge Hanen has requested that the Federal Government explain how this was accomplished. On February 16 th, Judge Hanen included in his decision on the injunction that the Federal Government planned to begin accepting applications for the new DACA program on February 18 th. He also stated in his decision that although the injunction did not affect the previous, 2012 DACA program, it did stop the new program introduced by President Obama in his executive action on the issue.
May 19th had been designated as the date for the portion of the new DACA that would apply to the protection of parents of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents.