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Supreme Court upholds injunction blocking key programs for undocumented immigrants

Explainer: What are DACA and DAPA, and what happens now?
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23 Jun 2016 – 11:08 AM EDT
Activist Antonia Surco from Peru promised to keep battling for immigrant benefits Crédito: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

NEW YORK--In a tied decision today, the Supreme Court upheld an injunction blocking two deportation relief programs that would benefit roughly 5 million immigrants.

Launched by President Barack Obama in November 2014, the programs would provide protection from deportation and allow immigrants to work legally, though don't provide a path to permanent legal residency or citizenship. These initiatives were blocked by an injunction stemming from a 2014 lawsuit brought by 26 states, and today's ruling means the programs are unlikely to see the light of day during the remainder of Obama's presidency.

Since the justices voted 4-4, the lower court ruling stands and the case goes back to Texas Judge Andrew Hanen, who must decide "whether and how to go forward with the trial," the SCOTUS blog reported. During a press conference today, Obama implied that if a Democrat wins the White House in November, the new administration would appeal the ruling. “We have to follow now what has been ruled in the Fifth Circuit because the Supreme Court could not resolve the issue, and we’re going to have to abide by that ruling until an election and a confirmation of a ninth justice of the Supreme Court so that they can break this tie,” he said.

DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Launched in June 2012 and still in effect, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) gives undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before age 16 the opportunity to get a Social Security number and temporary work authorization. This allows recipients to get on-the-books jobs, driver's licenses, bank accounts, and in some cases, health coverage. DACA protects young immigrants from deportation, putting in place similar measures to the proposed Dream Act, which failed at the national level in Congress.

Almost 730,000 people have received DACA since it launched, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another 1.2 million immigrants are eligible to apply, The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates.

Applicants must be in school or have graduated from high school, or have served in the armed forces, and cannot have a criminal record. They must have resided continuously in the U.S. for at least five years, and must renew their status every two years. There's an age cap on who can apply; beneficiaries must have been 31 or younger as of June 15, 2012.

Obama announced the expansion of the program in 2014, but because of the lawsuit, it hasn't gone into effect. There are some 290,000 immigrants who'd be eligible for expanded DACA, according to MPI.

The main changes to expanded DACA are:

  • there's no age cap
  • recipients would renew their status every three years instead of two.

To be eligible for expanded DACA, applicants must:

  • Have entered the United States before age 16;
  • Have lived in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 2010;
  • Had no lawful status as of June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and aren't considered a threat to national security or public safety.

DAPA: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents

Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) is a new program Obama announced in November 2014. It protects the undocumented parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents from deportation, and offers the same benefits as DACA. As a result, beneficiaries would be able to work legally. Like with expanded DACA, recipients must renew their status every three years.

MPI estimates that close to 4 million people would be eligible for DAPA.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • Have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010;
  • Had a son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of November 20, 2014;
  • Are not an enforcement priority for deportation under the 2014 Department of Homeland Security memorandum. (One cannot have committed a serious crime, multiple misdemeanors, a DUI, or have received a deportation order since January 2014.)

The Impact of Deferred Action

  • Almost 730,000 people have received DACA since it launched.
  • Two-thirds of DACA recipients got a job with higher pay and that their salaries increased an average of 45 percent, according to a 2015 survey by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for American Progress.
  • A study by Roberto Gonzales of the the National UnDACAmented Research Project determined that DACA recipients have increased access to higher education, since they are able to get better paying jobs.
  • In another study, Gonzalez found that almost half of DACA recipients were able to open their first bank account; one-third got their first credit card; and about one-fifth of DACA recipients were able to get health insurance. More than half received a driver's license.
  • A 2015 poll by immigrant advocacy group United We Dream found that two-thirds of DACA recipients help their families with rent and utilities.
  • Over the next decade, expanded DACA and DAPA would add a cumulative $230 billion to the U.S. GDP and would lead to an additional $805 million in state and local tax revenue, according to a Center for American Progress study.