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Fate of DACA Still Uncertain    

FILE - Demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court as justices were scheduled to hear arguments in the consolidation of three cases regarding the Trump administration’s bid to end DACA, in Washington, Nov. 12, 2019.

The fate of about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children is in the hands of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The court is expected to decide in the coming weeks if the Trump administration has the right to end a program that allows these immigrants to work in the U.S. free from the threat of deportation.

Amid the 2020 presidential campaign, the Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit that began after the September 2017 decision by President Donald Trump to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Three injunctions

Immigrant groups filed several lawsuits against the administration’s decision and argued that ending DACA was unlawful, resulting in U.S. district courts in the District of Columbia, California and New York issuing three nationwide injunctions, allowing DACA recipients to renew their deferred action.

Shelly Peskin, a legal assistant at CASA de Maryland and member of Avodah Jewish Service Corps, told VOA that while the Supreme Court’s decision has not been issued, they are pleading with clients to renew their DACA benefits.

“I am taking clients whose expiration dates are through early 2021. … We are doing appointments over the phone because CASA has gone remote for the foreseeable future,” she said.

To qualify for the program, an applicant must have a clean criminal record, been brought to the U.S. before they were 16 years old, received a background check and lived in the country at least five years. DACA does not lead to U.S. citizenship.

Mercedes Kent, of New York City, left, marches in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs for immigrants, Jan. 17, 2018, in Miami.
Mercedes Kent, of New York City, left, marches in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs for immigrants, Jan. 17, 2018, in Miami.

USCIS offices reopen on June 4

The injunctions by the three district courts obligates U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for administering the nation's legal immigration system, to continue accepting and adjudicating DACA renewal applications.

“The typical protocol for when USCIS is open and functioning normally is between four and eight months. ... But before all this [pandemic] happened, we were seeing really fast [turnover] times from USCIS. ... I was sending out DACA [applications] one day and they were coming back about a month later with the approvals,” Peskin said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS offices will remain closed until June 4, but the staff has continued to perform duties that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public.

Though the fate of DACA remains uncertain, eligible DACA recipients are encouraged to submit renewal applications.

If the justices agree with the government, the Trump administration could end the program.

There is also a lawsuit in Texas claiming that DACA is illegal, and it could likely go forward in the U.S. court system. Texas and six other Republican-governed states sued the U.S. government hoping to end the program initiated by former President Barack Obama.

Texas, joined by Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia, argued in the lawsuit that the Obama administration exceeded its authority by creating the program without congressional action.

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    Aline Barros

    Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.