By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) – The Biden administration proposed a rule on Monday that would move an estimated 700,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children to the back of the line to be deported, in a bid to preserve an Obama-era program recently struck down by a judge.
The proposal from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program first launched in 2012, the agency said, and ensure that productive young people with few ties to their home countries are not deported.
DACA beneficiaries, known as “Dreamers,” receive work authorization, access to driver’s licenses and better access, for some, to financial aid for education, but not a path to citizenship.
To be eligible for DACA, individuals must have been younger than 16 when they arrived in the United States and continuously resided in the country for five years. They also must have a high-school diploma or the equivalent and have not been convicted of any felonies or other serious crimes.
In a July ruling, a Texas federal judge said DACA was illegally created by former President Barack Obama and blocked DHS from accepting new applications to the program. The Biden administration is appealing that decision.
DHS on Monday said in the meantime, it made sense to focus its limited resources on deporting individuals who knowingly entered the U.S. illegally.
The proposal will be formally published on Tuesday, kicking off a 60-day public comment period.
The proposed rule is particularly important after a bid by U.S. Senate Democrats to insert a path to citizenship for Dreamers in a budget bill hit a roadblock last week, according to Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School.
“While Democrats will try to find other ways to provide a path to a green card for Dreamers, the proposed rule could be a temporary safety net for Dreamers if legislation fails,” Yale-Loehr said.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in New York; Editing by Angus MacSwan)