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What the Supreme Court’s Recent Decision Means for Iowa’s DACA Recipients


Many immigrants arrived in Iowa during childhood. While their parents may not have followed U.S. immigration law in settling here, their children had no say in the matter. Many of these children grew up to become valuable parts of their local communities, even though legally they are still considered “unauthorized aliens” who are subject to deportation.

To help remedy this situation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum in 2012 establishing a program known as Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA). Under DACA, unauthorized aliens who entered the U.S. as children could apply for a renewable two-year order protecting them from deportation and allowing them to work legally. DACA restricted eligibility based on age and other factors.

Two years later, in November 2014, the DHS attempted to revise its DACA rules. Among other things, the proposed revisions would have lifted the age limit and created a new program known as DAPA to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. A number of state governments sued the DHS to prevent these revisions from taking effect, and a federal appeals court eventually issued an injunction against the federal government.

Meanwhile, after the 2016 election, the new administration decided to end the DACA program. In a new memorandum issued in June 2017, the DHS cited the appeals court’s injunction as well as advice from the U.S. Attorney General expressing doubts as to the legality of the original 2012 DHS memorandum. Under the new policy, the DHS would no longer accept DACA applications, and existing two-year orders would be allowed to expire without the opportunity of renewal. This prompted new litigation, joined by the State of Iowa, challenging the decision to end DACA.

DACA Recipients are Safe–For Now

Which brings us to the recent Supreme Court decision. On June 18, the Court held the June 2017 memorandum violated a federal law known as the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court, explained that the APA prevents government officials from issuing “arbitrary and capricious” regulations. In this case, the DHS memorandum ending DACA was arbitrary and capricious because it “failed to consider important aspects of the problem before the agency.” Even if the original decision to create DACA was illegal, as the current administration claims, the government should have considered whether or not DACA recipients had a “legitimate reliance” on the program. At a minimum, DHS must weigh those reliance interests against other policy concerns.

So what does all this mean in practice? Well, the Court did not say that DACA itself was legal or illegal. That remains an open legal question. Nor does anything in Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion prevent the DHS from rescinding DACA protections in the future. All the Court did was require the DHS to follow the APA in formulating any new policies that affect existing DACA recipients. Congress could also step in and pass its own legislation clarifying the status of DACA recipients and other unauthorized aliens.

But for now, at least, existing DACA beneficiaries are safe. If you have further questions or concerns and need legal advice from a qualified Southeast Iowa immigration attorney, contact the Noyes Law Office today to schedule a consultation.


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