- A Dreamer is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States as a child. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a deferred action policy implemented by the Obama administration in June 2012 that is aimed at protecting Dreamers. DACA is not lawful status nor does it provide the opportunity for Dreamers to stay permanently – it temporarily shields Dreamers from deportation and provides them work authorization with possible renewal every two years. There are as many as 3.6 million Dreamers residing in the United States, but only about 580,000 Dreamers are currently protected under DACA. The average DACA recipient arrived in the United States at age 7 and has lived here for more than 20 years. Please see our fact sheet on DACA for more information.
- A legislative solution for Dreamers continues to be urgent. On September 13, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled against DACA, holding that the program was unlawful. The ruling rests on grounds similar to an earlier decision in October 2022 from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen held that the Biden administration’s 2022 final rule on DACA was not materially different from the 2012 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum establishing DACA and is therefore unlawful.
- Consistent with previous decisions, Judge Hanen continued to stay (pause) the injunction and order vacating DACA rules for current DACA recipients. Current DACA recipients can continue to work legally in the U.S., be protected from deportation, and renew their status, at least temporarily, as litigation over the DACA policy continues. The Biden administration is likely to a likely appeal Hanen’s decision to the Fifth Circuit and, later, the U.S. Supreme Court.
- In the absence of a permanent solution, Congress has a responsibility to cement the contributions of Dreamers, as well as other immigrant populations, and provide some certainty for American employers and workers.
- In the Senate, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced the Dream Act of 2023, a bipartisan effort to provide Dreamers with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain legal status in America. An earlier version of that bill would protect between 2-3 million Dreamers, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
- Up to 2.7 million Dreamers and 400,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients would potentially be eligible to apply for conditional legal status under the American Dream and Promise Act of 2023, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2023, according to the Migration Policy Institute analysis of the 2021 version of the bill.
- On June 18, 2020, in a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court held that the Trump administration did not provide an adequate justification for ending DACA, allowing it to remain in place. Please see our explainer on the decision for more analysis of the Supreme Court decision.
- In July 2021, in a separate lawsuit challenging the legality of DACA, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA is illegal. His ruling barred DHS from approving new DACA applications, but Hanen temporarily stayed the portion of his decision that would halt DACA protections for current recipients, citing the significant reliance existing DACA recipients have in the program.
- To fortify DACA and attempt to address the procedural concerns raised by Hanen, the Biden administration engaged in formal rulemaking process. On August 30, 2022, a final DACA rule was published and is scheduled to go into effect on October 31, 2022.
- The Biden administration appealed Hanen’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments on July 6, 2022 and issued a decision on October 5, 2022 finding DACA unlawful. The Fifth Circuit refrained from ruling on the legality of the new DACA rule, instead remanding the case back to Judge Hanen to rule on that issue. Given the similarity between the 2022 final rule and the original DACA policy, it is expected that Hanen will find the new rule to be unlawful. In its decision, the Fifth Circuit preserved the stay temporarily protecting current DACA recipients from deportation and allowing them to retain work authorization, as well as the ability to apply for renewal of their protections. Under the stay, new applicants will continue to be barred from having their petitions adjudicated.
- Judge Hanen issued his decision on September 13, 2023, holding that the 2021 DACA rule is unlawful. Hanen continued to stay (pause) the injunction, allowing current DACA recipients to maintain their protection from deportation and work authorization.
- In light of the court decisions, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients brought to the U.S. as children could eventually lose their work authorization and protection from deportation, underscoring the urgent need for a permanent legislative solution.
Advocate for Dreamers
Contacting your member of Congress and/or their staff is one of the most effective ways to share your views on the need to pass a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers. Below is guidance on writing to or meeting with your Member of Congress and/or their staff about a legislative solution for Dreamers, as well as TPS holders.
- Ask Your Senators to Support a Solution for Dreamers As Soon As Possible: Judge Hanen’s ruling shines a light on the fact that DACA has always been only a temporary solution and that Congress needs to act now. We cannot keep leaving Dreamers in limbo, undermining their future in the only country many of them have called home. Take action and tell your Senators to pass a permanent solution for Dreamers!
- Meet with Your Member of Congress: This document provides a guide for attending in-district or Washington, D.C. meetings with Senate and House offices. Click this link for a map of Capitol Hill.
- Fact Sheet on DACA:
- Talking Points:
- Bibles, Badges and Business talking points on Dreamers, also included in the short guide for congressional meetings.
- Economic Benefits of Dreamers:
- Over the next 10 years, Dreamers who currently have DACA will contribute an estimated $433 billion to the GDP, $60 billion in fiscal impact, and $12.3 billion in taxes to Social Security and Medicare if they can continue to work legally in the U.S.
- Infographics: Dreamer and TPS Recipient Contributions focus on the contributions of Dreamers and TPS holders in a number of states.
- Statements of Support for Dreamers:
- National security experts, law enforcement leaders, veterans, and more than 3,450 pastors and evangelical leaders have called on Congress to protect Dreamers.
- Where Does DACA Stand Now?:
- This video and infographic provided an overview of DACA leading up to the June 2020 Supreme Court decision allowing DACA to remain in place.
- This explainer discusses the legal reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision on the Trump administration’s attempted DACA rescission.
- This explainer discusses the July 2021 federal court decision that found DACA to be unlawful and halted the approval of new applications.
- This April 2022 explainer (updated in September and October 2022) provides an overview on the current state of DACA, including the issuance of a new final DACA rule and ongoing appellate litigation.
- This explainer discussed the October 2022 decision by the Fifth Circuit finding DACA unlawful and remanding the case to the district court to determine the legality of the new DACA rule.
- This explainer provides an overview of the September 2023 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen finding that the 2021 DACA rule is materially similar to the 2012 DHS memorandum establishing DACA and therefore is unlawful.
Key Legislation Pending in Congress
The following bill pending in Congress would provide a permanent, legislative solution for Dreamers:
- The Dream Act of 2023 (S. 365), introduced on February 9, 2023 in the Senate.
- The American Dream and Promise Act of 2023 (H.R. 16), introduced on July 24, 2023 in the House.
It is likely that additional bills, including versions of the bills introduced last Congress, will be introduced in the 118th Congress.
In the previous Congress, lawmakers introduced a number of bills to protect Dreamers. The Dream Act of 2019 (S. 874) introduced on March 26, 2019 in the Senate. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) passed the House of Representatives on June 4, 2019 by a 237 to 187 vote, but did not receive a vote in the Senate.
The American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (H.R. 6) was introduced on March 3, 2021 and passed the House 228-197 on March 18, 2021. The bill would provide Dreamers, TPS holders, and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the United States if they meet certain requirements. An attempt to include provisions of the bill in a larger Senate reconciliation package, where it could pass with a simple majority, failed in 2021.