The need for migration justice continues to make daily news. Yet, the 117th Congress (2021-2022) has failed to act. We were painfully reminded of that reality last week, when a federal appeals court upheld a 2021 ruling against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides protection for undocumented individuals who arrived in the United States as children.
However, thanks to the tireless work of advocates and the leadership of immigrant communities and allies, the pressure is building for change. In the past year, we have repeatedly gotten lawmakers on record supporting more just migration policies—most notably by securing protections for undocumented immigrants in the House version of the Build Back Better Act. Its inclusion was a significant progress marker, but was met with disappointment as Congress did not finalize such protections.
We remain committed to calling on Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and our undocumented neighbors.
As we continue working for long-term solutions this year—and lay the groundwork for progress in 2023—we see several opportunities for change before us. We remain committed to calling on Congress to pass a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and our undocumented neighbors.
Legal Decisions for DACA
On June 15, 2022, we celebrated ten years since the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The policy, which safeguards Dreamers from deportation and offers work authorization, has suffered ongoing legal assaults during the Trump and Biden administrations.
It’s important to note that DACA recipients can still renew their status. The Department of Homeland Security, however, cannot process new applications.
Last summer, courts jeopardized the existence of DACA. When taken to the appeals court, the decision released in this month sided with the lower courts deeming the policy unlawful. This ruling also impacts the Biden administration’s federal rule to fortify DACA against such legal challenges.
The rule, set to begin in October 2022, reestablishes protections aligned with the Obama-era DACA policy. However, after the appeals court’s ruling, the lower court will now review the Biden administration’s DACA protections.
It’s important to note that DACA recipients can still renew their status. The Department of Homeland Security, however, cannot process new applications. Nonetheless, Dreamer’s temporary relief sits in the courts; a permanent solution rests on congressional action.
The Search for Long-Term Solutions
During this session of Congress (2021-2022), lawmakers have taken meaningful steps to create permanent solutions for undocumented immigrants. The House passed key legislation in March 2021, providing citizenship pathways for Dreamers and Temporary Protective Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders. However, companion legislation remains stalled in the Senate.
The House also passed deportation and work authorization protections for undocumented immigrants in the Build Back Better Act. However, the bill that ultimately became law—the Inflation Reduction Act—did not include those provisions.
These efforts mark progress, but while Congress struggles to find a long-term policy solution that can pass in both chambers, undocumented community members remain locked in limbo. Undocumented immigrants have a fundamental right to education, healthcare, and crucial benefits. They deserve to live in the security of knowing that their families will stay united and experience stability.
While an entire overhaul of the immigration system may not be possible before the end of 2022, there are things Congress can do to improve our current system.
Addressing visa application backlogs—the lengthy process between filing, processing, and approving applications for legal entry into the United States—would increase opportunities for family reunification and economic stability.
The United States has many such visas available, but we have let thousands of unused family-based and employment-based visas expire rather than filling them. Congress must invest in solutions to streamline our current migration processes in recognition of the valuable work and contributions of the undocumented community.
Next Steps in 2022 and Beyond
Despite the political challenges that lay before us, we are committed to seeing equity and justice for all by advocating for just migration policies. FCNL will continue to advocate for legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship alongside our organizational partners. Lawmakers must honor the worth of every individual and provide solutions to continue the road to a pathway to citizenship. We must tell Congress: Now is the time for citizenship!