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Does DACA provide a pathway to citizenship?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy is under scrutiny again, despite it currently being barred from accepting new applications.

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.
Paul RatjeAFP

President Joe Biden is facing increased pressure to respond to a growing number of migrants who have converged under a border bridge which connects Del Rio, Texas to Mexico's Ciudad Acuña. More than 10,000 people were thought to be gathered in cramped conditions with scant provisions in sweltering heat, but the US is sending them back, as is Mexico.

Those gathered are thought to primarily hail from Haiti, although Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans are also amongst those present, according to Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano.

Developments in the last day have included mounted charges from police units into migrants near a river. Lawmakers have condemned the police overstep. Asked on Tuesday about footage of the incident, Vice-President Kamala Harris said:“What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible.”

“Human beings should never be treated that way,” she said. “And I’m deeply troubled about it.”

What is DACA?

DACA is an executive order from the Obama administration to assist millions of undocumented children in the US. It provides protection from deportation and allows opportunities for work permits, but there is currently no path with DACA to become a natural US citizen. There have been efforts in the last nine years to expand it and allow for naturalization, as well as efforts to scrap the plan.

The closest Congress has got to allow permanent residency is the current 2021 DREAM and Promise Act. This act provides a path to citizenship with future opportunity to give undocumented family members permanent residency too. Currently, the bill has been approved by the House of Representatives, but has not advanced in the Senate.

The goal of the DREAM Act is to give Dreamers permanent legal status and a pathway to citizenship. On the other hand, DACA only offers "deferred action" that recipients have to renew every two years.

What threats to DACA have there been?

In 2017 President Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to end the DACA program. Though it was decided that the Trump administration used improper procedure, the door remains open for further challenges to DACA in the future.

Indeed, a federal court in Texas is hearing a case about the validity of DACA. The parliamentarian has also ruled that the reconciliation bill in Congress right now cannot expand DACA.


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