The Biden administration finalised a rule Wednesday to fortify the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), programme as it faced legal challenges.
It aimed to preserve protections for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.
The rule, set to go into effect Oct. 31, codifies into federal regulation the 2012 programme that shields more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.
It allowed them to work legally in the U.S. for the past 10 years, the programme has been governed by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum.
“Today, we are taking another step to do everything in our power to preserve and fortify DACA, an extraordinary programme that has transformed the lives of so many Dreamers.’’
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this in a statement.
“Thanks to DACA, we have been enriched by young people who contribute so much to our communities and our country.’’
The final rule unveiled Wednesday is similar to a proposed rule DHS released in 2021.
There were some minor changes, such as a clarification that expunged criminal convictions and immigration offences are not automatic disqualifiers for the program.
DHS received 16,361 comments during the rule’s public comment period.
The rule preserves long-standing eligibility requirements for the program.
To qualify, immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. by age 16 and before June 2007, must have studied at a U.S. school or served in the military, and must lack a serious criminal record.
The rule also retains the existing process for DACA applicants to seek work authorisation and affirms the current policy that DACA is not a form of lawful status, but DACA recipients.
It’s like other deferred action recipients were considered lawfully present.
The rule could still face a legal challenge, as the original programme has for years.