Homeland Security will soon move to “fortify” the DACA program, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday night, moving to reassure hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant “Dreamers” that the program will continue to give them a place in society.
Dreamers are already effectively protected from deportation under the Biden administration’s new restrictions on deportations, but DACA goes well beyond that to offer Dreamers work permits, some taxpayer benefits, and a chance to put down firm roots.
“We are taking action to preserve and fortify DACA,” Mr. Mayorkas said in a statement.
He didn’t say what the fortification would look like, but any move to expand the program could open it up to new legal action.
Already, a lawsuit is still pending in Texas challenging the original program former President Barack Obama created in 2012.
Mr. Mayorkas ran the legal immigration agency at that time and oversaw implementation of the program, officially known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
As of the end of 2020, nearly 650,000 people had DACA status.
Former President Trump tried to phase out the program in 2017, but was blocked by the courts, which ruled he did not offer enough of a justification for such a broad claim of executive powers.
At the Supreme Court, some dissenting justices pointed out that Mr. Obama had claimed the same broad powers in 2012 when he instituted the program. Justice Clarence Thomas said DACA was “unlawful from its inception.”
That could come back to haunt Mr. Mayorkas should he attempt to expand the program, giving opponents another chance at suing.
Mr. Mayorkas, in his statement, pleaded for Congress to pass legislation that would grant Dreamers a full pathway to citizenship.
A bill including that pathway passed the House this month, but the migrant surge at the border, which Mr. Mayorkas is struggling to constrain, has dampened chances for that legislation to clear the Senate.
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