“Dreamers”, who have long been a symbol of youth immigrants, are increasingly growing older, while eligibility requirements have been frozen since 2012 when the DACA program was introduced.
The oldest recipients were in their 30s when DACA started and are in their 40s today. At the same time, fewer people turning 16 can meet a requirement to have been in the United States continuously since June 2007. The average age of a DACA recipient was 28.2 years in March, and about 40% are 30 or older. Beneficiaries have become homeowners and married. Many have U.S. citizen children.
Born out of the US Administration’s failure to reach an agreement on immigration reform, DACA was meant to be a temporary solution, and many saw it as imperfect from the start. Immigration advocates were disappointed the policy didn’t include a pathway to citizenship and warned the program’s need to be renewed every two years would leave many feeling in limbo. Opponents criticized it as rewarding people who hadn’t properly followed the immigration process.
As fewer are eligible and new enrollments have been closed since July 2021 under court order, the number of DACA recipients fell to just above 600,000 at the end of March, according to government figures.
Advocates have complained that the DACA rule was inadequate because it lacked permanent immigration protections. It also failed to deliver on demands for broader program eligibility, continuing to apply only to dreamers who’ve lived in the US since 2007, they said.
The Biden administration issued the final rule in August – an echo of the first regulations covering DACA – in a bid to insulate the program from legal challenge. In addition, the ruling contains several severability provisions that would allow the rest of the program to remain in place if work authorization provisions were deemed invalid.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a challenge to DACA from Texas and eight other states. Attorneys for Texas and other states challenging DACA argued that any procedural challenges to the program wouldn’t be moot until the rule takes effect on Oct. 31. The argument is that until then, the court should decide the case without considering the effects of the final rule.
Uncertainty surrounding DACA has caused anxiety and frustration among aging recipients. Another area of ambiguity is what will happen to DACA recipients if the courts lift the Hanen stay and strike down the policy entirely. It is unclear whether DACA recipients would lose their protections and work authorization overnight, or if there will be a “wind down” period – likely the remaining duration of the EADs with no renewals.
In the event DACA is halted by the courts, DACA recipients and other Dreamers who otherwise would become eligible to initially apply for DACA should consult with an attorney or representative to assess if they have any other available options for relief outside of DACA.
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