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The Supreme Court’s big decision on DACA… may not be so big, after all

Thursday, June 18 was an important day for all Americans. The  Supreme court ruled 5-4 in a decision to allow DACA recipients to continue living and working in the United States, safely.

This came after much before it; in 2017, Trump rescinded DACA. But let’s slow down for a sec.

What is DACA?

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is a program that allows recipients to live here lawfully, and apply for work permits.

It does not have a current path toward citizenship. DACA is for people who arrived in the States as children, prior to the age of 16. They must live in the country continuously and cannot leave.

If they do leave the US for any reason whatsoever, DACA recipients are not guaranteed entry back in. There are a handful of other requirements, like: they must be in school, acquired their GED, or be an honorably discharged military member.

Also, they cannot be convicted of any crimes. DACA offers Dreamers two years of deferred deportation. Luckily, the two-year period is renewable.

Whoa, whoa, whoa…Dreamers?

Yes, recipients are called “Dreamers,” after the DREAM Act that was introduced into Congress originally in 2001. Here’s the thing though: The Dream Act, which would have offered some sort of way for a Dreamer to possibly become a citizen, has never passed.

And yes, DACA recipients pay their federal income taxes, despite not being allowed to vote, receive any federal benefits (like Social Security, college financial aid, or food stamps), and cannot receive a path to citizenship. (Luckily, some states have passed laws to offer Dreamers in-state tuition.) In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the 1.3 million Dreamers pay an estimated 1.7 billion a year in taxes.

If all of this sounds stressful, it should. Without any way to even try becoming a citizen, Dreamers are effectively stuck in a limbo, constantly working to prove themselves before the end of those two years, to either buy time or get deported.

But at least Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday stops that, right?

The Supreme Court’s big decision… May not be so big, after all

Though this decision buys time, it still has done nothing to guarantee Dreamers. In fact, the Supreme Court didn’t quite rule on the basis of DACA itself, but rather, the question of proper paperwork.

Roberts, the Supreme Court Judge who wrote the majority opinion, stated, “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Roberts wrote.

“The wisdom of those decisions is none of our concern. Here we address only whether the Administration complied with the procedural requirements in the law that insist on ‘a reasoned explanation for its action.’ ”

This hints that in the future, and administration with a (somehow) more coherent reasoning could get by on Supreme Court and end DACA for all.  However, the current pandemic also may have helped to influence this outcome.

Around 27,000 Dreamers are on the frontlines during COVID-19, working in health care.

Yet, the fight for DACA is still not over. Thursday was an important day, but it could very well be a pause in the conversation instead of a pin. Ultimately, it is going to depend on what happens in the voting booths this November.