Supreme Court Keeps Immigrant Dreams Alive for Now But A Permanent Solution is Needed

On June 18th, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued the long-awaited decision in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case.

DACA is an Obama-era program that provides protection from deportation and work authorization for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who came to the United States before the age of 16. The protection lasts for two years at a time and can be renewed. DACA does not provide a path to permanent residency or citizenship. Over 800,000 young immigrants have applied for DACA since its introduction in 2012.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would terminate the DACA program. Since then, no new DACA applications have been accepted.

However, as a result of multiple court cases, immigrant advocates had kept DACA partially alive. The resulting injunctions have enabled us to keep filing DACA renewals for those who previously applied for the program. A disagreement on the DACA rescission among lower courts ultimately brought the case up to the Supreme Court.

In a 5-4 decision, Supreme Court found that the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” Furthermore, Chief Justice Roberts - who wrote the majority opinion - stated that the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the decision to rescind DACA “must be vacated.”

The Court did not address the merits of DACA. It simply ruled that the way the administration tried to end it was not lawful. The White House is therefore free to try to try rescind DACA again and, based on recent statements, it clearly intends to do just that.

For now, DACA remains intact and the Supreme Court’s decision essentially restores the 2012 Obama administration’s DACA policy in full. This is absolutely critical because, as mentioned, we have been unable to file any initial DACA applications since the attempted rescission in September 2017. While we are waiting for specific guidance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, we should soon be able to file new DACA applications in addition to renewals assuming all eligibility requirements are met.

Those requirements, generally, are as follows:

•You were under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
•You first came to the U.S. before your 16th birthday;
•You have lived continuously in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 until present;
•You were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012 and at the time you apply;
•You entered the U.S. without documents or fell out of lawful status before June 15, 2012;
•You are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces;     •You have NOT been convicted of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors, or three or more misdemeanors of any kind; and,
•You do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

While the Irish community only has a few DACA recipients, they are still an important part of our immigrant community. There could also be additional Irish citizens who may be eligible to file for an initial DACA application, so keep the above requirements in mind.

As always we recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney for specific legal advice and representation in all immigration matters, including DACA. Now-more than ever before-is not the time to “DIY” your own immigration case. There are many pro/low bono immigration clinics for those who need them and may not be able to hire a private immigration attorney. You can find more information on or by getting in touch with the National Immigrant Justice Center or the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Given the administration’s repeated desire to cancel DACA, and its recent statements that it will follow proper procedures to do just that, we would urge would-be DACA applicants to act promptly.

While DACA remains intact for now, it is not a permanent solution nor was it intended as such. President Obama created DACA through an executive order in 2012 after more than a decade of failed negotiations in Congress over how to deal with Dreamers. The Dream Act, initially introduced by Illinois Senator Durbin, never passed in Congress, but it did gain widespread support in the House, the Senate, and also among voters. That support still exists today, and polls consistently show that majority of Americans support DACA and the Dreamers.

I’m so proud of the work that us immigration advocates and activists, including those in the Irish community, have done in support of Dreamers and DACA. It would be remiss of me to claim that the Irish did the heavy lifting in relation to DACA, but we were proud to amplify the message and advocacy of our immigrant brothers and sisters from around the world and present a united voice in support of comprehensive immigration reform. I’d like to give a special mention to a few Irish people and groups: our first Senator for the Diaspora, my friend and mentor, the wonderful Billy Lawless, his extremely supportive wife Anne, and their amazing family; the late, great Maureen O’Looney; Cyril and Josephine Regan; Breandán Magee; Michael Leonard; Peter Dineen; Mary Gorski; Mike Collins, Paul Dowling, and all who have helped with Irish Community Services over the years; the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform; and, the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers.

For well over a decade, we have lobbied on Capitol Hill; participated in roundtables with and Senator Durbin; done live TV and radio interviews on national and international outlets; attended what feels like millions of rallies and protests; and, met so many incredible Dreamers, families, advocates, activists, and inspiring humans along the way. Personally, I’ve also written a children’s book on immigration called “Our American Dream” that includes Rosita, a Dreamer inspired by some of the Dreamers I have met over the course of my 12+ years practicing immigration law. A portion of the proceeds of my book are going to two immigration non-profits: I Am An Immigrant, and the American Immigration Council.

While we can rest a little easier, for now, with the Supreme Court’s decision in DACA, we know that the fight is not over. We will rise up and continue to advocate for immigration reform. You can join us by contacting your member of Congress and asking for a permanent solution for Dreamers and for comprehensive immigration reform.