Despite Supreme Court's Ruling On DACA, Trump Administration Rejects New Applicants

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[July 15, 2020] The Supreme Court ruling last month that allowed DACA to continue felt like a win for young immigrants like Diego, a 17-year-old high school student.

Right away, he applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, to get the work permit and the protection from deportation that come with it.

"It's life-changing," said Diego, who asked not to use his last name because he was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child. "So we can go on with our lives, without fearing to get deported the next day, or you know, never seeing my mom again, or never seeing my brother again."

But his DACA application was rejected.

There are hundreds of thousands of Diegos in this country — young people who would be eligible to sign up for DACA, except that the Trump administration is still not accepting new, first-time applications. The administration is only processing renewals.

DACA recipients and their families were elated when the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration didn't go about ending the popular program correctly. Many immigration lawyers thought that meant the program would have to be restarted to allow new applications.

But that hasn't happened. And critics accuse the Trump administration of ignoring the high court's ruling.

"That's insane. That's a violation of the order," said Bill Ong Hing, professor of law and Director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at the University of San Francisco.

It's been nearly a month since the Supreme Court's ruling. So technically, Hing says, that order should be in full effect and DACA should be operating exactly the way it was before the administration moved to end it.

"Legally, there's no basis to reject any new applications," Hing said. "I'm very upset and disturbed that this is an example of politics reigning over law."

Diego's rejection notice says that the Trump administration is "no longer accepting initial requests" for DACA.

"It's like an itch that you can't get to," Diego said. "It's a terrible feeling."

Diego was born in Puebla, Mexico, and moved to Michigan with his mother and brother as a young child. He was too young to sign up for DACA when the Trump administration moved to end the program in 2017. Now he's heading into his senior year of high school in a suburb of Detroit, and hoping to apply to college.

"It's just so unfortunate when you have an administration that doesn't even give full credit to the Supreme Court," said Tamara French, Diego's lawyer. "And that's where we're at."

The Trump administration has long maintained that DACA was created illegally by President Obama.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles DACA applications, says the administration is still reviewing the Supreme Court's decision and referred us back to the agency's statement from last month that the high court's ruling has "no basis in law."

"The constitutionality of this de facto amnesty program created by the Obama administration has been widely questioned since its inception," said Joseph Edlow, the deputy director for policy at USCIS.

For full text or to listen to the NPR segment: NPR All Things Considered: Trump Administration Rejects DACA Applications