On October 5, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2021 district court decision that ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy unlawful.
The case now goes back to the district court for renewed consideration of the new DACA rule published by the Biden administration. However, only Congress has the tools to provide permanent protections by passing legislation to create a pathway to legal status for Dreamers.
DACA, which the Obama administration created through executive action in 2012, provides specific undocumented individuals who arrived in the country as children, with a renewable temporary status that protects them from deportation and allows them to work in the United States.
The court’s decisions leave DACA recipients in a very vulnerable position. Although the ruling allows the more than 600,000 DACA recipients to keep and renew their status, for the time being, the Supreme Court could very well strip these protections in the near future if they also rule the policy unlawful. The decision continues to prohibit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from issuing DACA to new pending applicants and prohibits eligible individuals who have not yet applied from seeking protection through the program.
The Dream Act of 2021 (S.264) was introduced in the Senate on February 4th, 2021 to provide a pathway to legal status for DACA recipients. Passing this bill aligns with our Church’s long-standing commitment to protecting immigrants. We have advocated for legal status for undocumented immigrants since 2009, and for passing the Dream Act since 2012, calling on Congress to pass “federal legislation that presents a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults.”
What Does the Church Say?
The United Methodist Social Principles are clear:
“We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
What is the Dream Act (S.264)?
Senate Bill 264, known as the Dream Act of 2021, will allow undocumented immigrants to receive conditional permanent resident status (CPR) if they entered the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or if they:
- Have been present in the U.S. for four or more years prior to the passing of the bill;
- Were under the age of 18 at the time of their arrival in the U.S.;
- Do not have a history of crime, security, or other threats that make them inadmissible for residential status;
- Have been admitted to higher education institutions, graduated high school, obtained a GED, or are currently enrolled in secondary school/program to pursue a high school diploma or GED.
After being granted CPR status, a person may be granted lawful permanent resident (LPR, or a green card) by having or acquiring a bachelor’s degree, completing two years of military service, or being employed for three years with 75% of that time having employment authorization. Those who do not meet these standards can apply for a hardship waiver to obtain an LPR.
Once maintaining LPR status for five years, a person may apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. This bill also ensures that those who meet the standards have access to the same higher education benefits as other U.S. citizens do.
If the Dream Act is passed, the Migration Policy Institute has estimated that 2 million undocumented immigrants who entered the country via DACA would qualify for conditional permanent resident status.