Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Biden administration strengthens DACA

Advocates say rule does not go far enough

Published:Friday | August 26, 2022 | 12:10 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Ingrid Vaca (left), a native of Bolivia, helps to energise activists to rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, also known as DACA, at the Capitol in Washington on June 15. The Biden administration has unveiled a regulatio
Ingrid Vaca (left), a native of Bolivia, helps to energise activists to rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, also known as DACA, at the Capitol in Washington on June 15. The Biden administration has unveiled a regulation aimed at fending off legal challenges to a decade-old programme that shields immigrants from deportation if they arrived as young children. The rule is not scheduled to take effect until October 31, and its fate is tied to a lawsuit by Texas and other Republican-led states.

The Biden administration on Wednesday issued a final rule that is intended to add another layer of protection to undocumented young persons in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or Dreamers, programme.

“Today, we are fulfilling our commitment to preserve and strengthen DACA by finalising a rule that will reinforce protections, like work authorisation, that allow Dreamers to live more freely and to invest in their communities more fully,” President Biden said.

The new regulation takes effect on October 31 and is meant to protect DACA by codifying the programme and replacing a 2012 memo that first created it.

Homeland Security specified that the final regulation would apply only to DACA renewal requests, as the current injunction still blocks the administration from approving new DACA applications.

Some 600,000 young people who were brought into the US and have remained without legal status are covered under the Obama-era programme, which currently offers work permits and protection from deportation. More than 3,000 Jamaicans are estimated to be covered under the programme.

But Irwine Clare, head of Caribbean Immigrants Services, a Queens-based immigration outreach service that serves the New York Jamaican and Caribbean communities, said that while the new rule is a step in the right direction, Congress still needs to act to protect DACA recipients.

“It bolsters the legality of the programme and makes it stronger. It provides some measure of safeguard but does not guarantee that the programme is safe from being overturned by the courts,” he said.

Clare noted that while those Jamaicans covered under DACA may take some measure of comfort from the new rule, the court could still rule against the programme.

Some immigrant advocates have also expressed frustration that the Biden administration did not go further in its final rule, opting to keep the same criteria as when the programme was created in 2012.

UNABLE TO REACH DEAL

Congress has long been unable to reach any kind of immigration deal that would garner enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate.

On Wednesday, Biden directly called on Republicans on Capitol Hill to move for a legislative solution.

“I will do everything within my power to protect Dreamers, but Congressional Republicans should stop blocking a bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers,” Biden said. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do for our economy and our communities.”

Sen Dick Durbin, who has long pushed for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, was quick to applaud the Department of Homeland Security’s issuing the rule. He noted that it provides “some stability to DACA recipients and make[s] it more difficult for a future administration to rescind DACA, which is a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion”.

“However, this rule cannot provide permanent legal status or fully protect DACA recipients from relentless Republican legal challenges to the programme,” Durbin said. “Only Congress can protect them.”