Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a federal program that protects certain undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States. Created by an Obama administration Executive Order in 2012, it allows people who were brought to the United States without authorization before their 16th birthday to apply for temporary protected status for two years, renewable for two year terms. Applicants must meet several criteria, as defined by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services:

  1. Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it planned to end DACA. A federal court ruled that action illegal and kept the program in place. In June 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the Trump Administration decision to end DACA. On July 16, 2021, a U.S. district court in Texas issued a decision and injunction holding that DACA is unlawful and freezing applications from first-time applicants, but allowing the program to continue for current recipients. The Texas court’s decision was upheld by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2022. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule in 2022 that, with limited changes, continues the DACA policy that was announced in 2012.

In September 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found DACA was unlawful and expanding the July 2021 injunction. However, the court maintained a partial stay of the order for “all DACA recipients who received their initial DACA status prior to July 16, 2021.” Current grants of DACA and related Employment Authorization Documents remain valid until they expire, unless individually terminated. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will continue to accept and process DACA renewal requests and accompanying applications for employment authorization. The agency will continue to accept initial DACA requests, but, per the order, not process them. For the latest on DACA litigation, visit the USCIS website.