Last month, so-called “Dreamers” celebrated a victory when the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily saved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA.
But the celebration was short-lived. On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued new guidelines that diminish the program’s benefits.
DHS will deny new DACA applications, for undocumented immigrants brought to this country illegally as children, and cut renewals for current recipients to one year from two years. New applications were put on hold when the Trump administration moved to end DACA in September 2017, but two-year renewals have continued, with about 700,000 people currently covered.
DACA recipient Dulce Dominguez said the renewal process is expensive and time consuming.
“It’s just kind of mind boggling,” Dominguez said. “I already have to renew before the two-year mark. It kind of feels I’m renewing every year and a half. I’m just going to have this in the back of my mind and plan it with everything I do.”
Dominguez has been renewing her DACA status for years. She first applied not long after then-President Barack Obama started the program in 2012. She said her current permit expires next year and that it is time consuming and expensive to renew it. Typically, she starts her renewal process six months before the work permit expires, and she spends between $700 and $800 every two years to renew. That cost includes attorneys fees and a long background check that, at times, can take more than six months. Dominguez, 26, said she doesn’t know how she will handle that expense each year.
“Considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, this is going to impact DACA recipients in more than one way,” she said.
Dominguez was brought to Illinois illegally when she was a toddler. With a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and full-time job, she now lives with her family in Waukegan.
Another big change is that advance parole for DACA recipients will be limited.
“Advance parole will be accepted in only extraordinary circumstances,” said Ruth Lopez-McCarthy, attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Advance parole allowed DACA recipients to travel, in some cases, with permission from the government.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that Trump failed to follow rule-making procedures when he tried to end the program but kept a window open for him to try again. The White House has been studying the ruling and devising plans to try again to end DACA — though it was not immediately clear whether the politically sensitive move would be undertaken before November’s election.
Immigration activists predicted the administration would issue new guidelines. The legal battle over the future of the DACA program will likely continue.
“We’re going to work with a lot of people on DACA,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “And we’re also working on an immigration bill, a merit-based system, which is what I’ve wanted for a long time.”
Trump said he would make DACA recipients “happy” without saying how.
María Inés Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.