Immigration and legal advocacy groups say President Joe Biden's regulation to prevent legal challenges to a program shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation does not go far enough and are calling on the U.S. Congress to legislate a path to citizenship.
The Biden administration unveiled a new rule on Wednesday intended to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA program. President Barack Obama implemented DACA in 2012 as an executive order, allowing eligible young adults who came to the U.S. as children to work and study without fear of deportation.
DACA has been around for a decade but has been closed to new registrants since July 2021 while a lawsuit filed by Texas and other Republican-led states makes its way through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Former President Donald Trump tried to shut down the program but was blocked by the Supreme Court.
The new rule on DACA isn’t scheduled to take effect until Oct. 31. There is little change from the 2012 memo that created DACA, but it’s intended to improve its chances of surviving legal battles.
Immigration advocates from several national organizations were disappointed the new rule does not extend DACA to more immigrants. Under DACA, applicants must have arrived in the U.S. by the age of 16 before June 2007.
But the biggest push, legal advocates say, should be congressional legislation to create a permanent path to legalization for eligible young immigrants.
“While we recognize DHS’s efforts to preserve and fortify the DACA program, we believe that this final rule is not enough to protect DACA recipients like me,” read a statement by Juan Carlos Cerda, deputy campaign director of the American Business Immigration Coalition and also a DACA recipient. “Now is the time to build on the successes of DACA and pass bipartisan legislation that provides a path to citizenship to DACA recipients and other Dreamers.”
“These regulations are essential, but laws are for lasting change,” said American Immigration Lawyers Association President Jeremy McKinney. “We need Congress to pass legislation permanently protecting all Dreamers — not just those who qualify for DACA under these regulations, but also the many others who have lived for years in legal limbo. That is the true solution here.”
The National Korean American Service and Education Consortium issued a statement saying in part, “the Biden administration can and must do more to protect DACA and immigrants across the United States.”
The group added that “xenophobic and racist rhetoric — underscore the deep need for President Biden and Congress to create permanent protections for immigrant communities.”
Over 611,000 people are currently enrolled in DACA, according to government figures. Almost 500,000 are from Mexico.
Several studies across the decade have shown the Obama-era policy opened job, educational and financial pathways to thousands of undocumented and mainly Latino young Americans.
Biden said he would do “everything within my power” to protect DACA recipients but also called for congressional legislation to provide them a pathway to citizenship.