WASHINGTON – The Biden administration took steps Monday to preserve an Obama-era program that offers protections for immigrants who were brought illegally to the USA as children.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed rule that would "preserve and fortify" the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Months ago, a federal judge in Texas ruled the program illegal and halted its acceptance of applications.
The judge ruled DACA violated the U.S. Constitution because it undermines Congress’ authority on immigration laws. The Biden administration appealed that ruling.
The proposed rule would re-create the DACA policy as it was announced in the memorandum issued in 2012 by then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. It called for the Department of Homeland Security to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for young children who came to the USA illegally, also known as "Dreamers."
Monday's DHS notice of the proposed rule said, “DACA recipients should not be a priority for removal.” The proposed rule will be published Tuesday and is open to a 60-day public comment period.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Monday that "the Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country."
“This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal," he continued. "However, only Congress can provide permanent protection. I support the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill and urge Congress to act swiftly to provide Dreamers the legal status they need and deserve.”
Congress has not been able to pass legislation that would protect DACA recipients and offer a pathway to citizenship.
This year, the House passed legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, but the measure was not brought up in the Senate.
Democrats on Capitol Hill tried to include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, farmworkers and essential workers in a $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending package, but the proposed amendment was shot down by the Senate parliamentarian.
Some immigration rights advocates said they want to see more from the Biden administration and Democrats on providing protections for undocumented immigrants.
Bruna Sollod, communications director for United We Dream, an immigration rights organization, said the proposed rule is not enough to protect DACA recipients.
Sollod, a DACA recipient, said the DACA policy excludes too many immigrants and is a temporary solution that doesn't provide long-term protections for undocumented immigrants. She wants Democrats on Capitol Hill to include a pathway to citizenship in the spending bill despite the parliamentarian's ruling.
"It was an important victory for our movement," Sollad said of DACA. "But we want off this roller coaster because at the end of the day, it is not a way to live. We want permanency in this country, and the only way to get that is through citizenship, and again, like the only people we're going to be holding accountable are Democrats."
The proposed rule would exclude "Documented Dreamers," children of long-term visa holders who have waited for years for a green card. Dip Patel, founder of Improve The Dream, an advocacy group, tweeted that DHS should provide similar protection for documented Dreamers.
".@POTUS graciously told us that he wants to protect all Dreamers," Patel tweeted. "My hope is that will happen with both temporary administrative relief immediately and permanent legislative action as soon as possible."
Contributing: Luz Moreno-Lozano, Austin American-Statesman; Billy Kobin, Louisville Courier Journal
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Immigration: Biden administration takes steps to preserve DACA