Washington: US President Joe Biden’s administration has finalised a rule to fortify the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme as it faces legal challenges, aiming to preserve protections for hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers”.
The rule, set to go into effect October 31, codifies into federal regulation the 2012 programme that shields more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally in the US, reports dpa news agency.
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 program that has transformed the lives of so many Dreamers,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement late Wednesday.
“Thanks to DACA, we have been enriched by young people who contribute so much to our communities and our country.”
The final rule unveiled on Wednesday is similar to a proposed rule DHS released in 2021.
There are some minor changes, such as a clarification that expunged criminal convictions and immigration offences are not automatic disqualifiers for the programme.
DHS received 16,361 comments during the rule’s public comment period.
The rule preserves long-standing eligibility requirements for the programme.
To qualify, immigrants must have arrived in the US by age 16 and before June 2007, must have studied at an American 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 authorization and affirms the current policy that DACA is not a form of lawful status but DACA recipients, like other deferred action recipients, are considered “lawfully present”.
The rule could still face a legal challenge, as the original programme has for years.