The Biden administration early Monday took a step toward preserving the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by announcing that a proposed rule for it is going through a public comment period, but stressed that the rule is not a substitution for congressional action.
"The Biden-Harris administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country," said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, reports CNN. "This notice of proposed rulemaking is an important step to achieve that goal. 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."
The rule is to be published in the Federal Register Tuesday and will be open for public comments for 60 days.
With the proposed rule, in order to qualify for the DACA program, "individuals must have arrived to the US before their 16th birthday, have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, are currently in school or have graduated, have not been convicted of a felony, and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety, among other criteria."
Mayorkas said his department would engage in the public rulemaking process "to preserve and fortify DACA" after Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas in July ruled that DACA violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act and blocked the government from approving new applicants, while allowing the program to continue for current enrollees.
As long as his stay for current recipients is in effect, they can renew themselves for the program every two years.
The Justice Department appealed Hanen's ruling earlier this month.
The program has been targeted with litigation since it was established under former President Barack Obama in 2012, including by ex-President Donald Trump, whose effort to terminate it was blocked by the Supreme Court.
There were 616,030 DACA recipients, or 'Dreamers,' as of March 30, many of whom are from Mexico and are now adults.
President Joe Biden's immigration agenda has been coming under scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans, particularly after the arrival of more than 14,000 immigrants, mostly Haitians, who were held at a camp under the international bridge in Del Rio, Texas. The administration removed about 4,000 of the migrants under the Trump-era public health rule on immigration and has dispersed others throughout the United States.
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