The Biden administration on Tuesday moved to make permanent protections for those brought to the U.S. undocumented as children, an effort to combat legal challenges to a program first started under President Obama. 

A proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security would solidify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was suspended under President Trump and enjoined by a Texas court in July of this year, leaving an estimated million people in immigration limbo.

“This proposed rule embraces the consistent judgment that has been maintained by the Department — and by three presidential administrations since the policy first was announced — that DACA recipients should not be a priority for removal,” DHS wrote in the rule.

“The proposed rule recognizes that enforcement resources are limited, that sensible priorities must necessarily be set, and that it is not generally the best use of those limited resources to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived since early childhood and whose languages they may not even speak. It recognizes that, as a general matter, DACA recipients, who came to this country many years ago as children, lacked the intent to violate the law, have not been convicted of any serious crimes, and remain valued members of our communities.”

Nearly 600,000 people applied for and received DACA under the Biden administration, but some 50,000 newer applicants had not yet been enrolled in the program when it was suspended under Trump. There are also 1.3 million so-called Dreamers living in the U.S. who would likely meet the criteria for the program, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

The proposal from Biden is not an expansion of the program, which provides work authorization and deferral from deportation for its recipients. 

It keeps the dates first outlined under the Obama administration, requiring beneficiaries to have entered the United States in 2007 or before, to have been present in 2012 when the program was created, and to have been born on or after June 16, 1981.

The new rule allows potential beneficiaries to apply separately for deferral from deportation, paying only an $85 fee, or for both deferral and a work permit by paying the $495 fee that was previously in effect.

But the rule largely seeks to combat a July ruling from a federal judge in Texas that argued the program violated the Administrative Procedures Act, which governs the lengthy rulemaking process. The ruling left intact the program’s benefits for those enrolled but barred new applications for DACA status.

DACA was first implemented by former President Obama in 2012, after he failed to get legislative protections for Dreamers in his first term.

The program was vilified by immigration restrictionists as executive overreach, as it not only called for prosecutorial discretion to avoid deporting low-priority undocumented immigrants, but granted them the right to work and apply for international travel permits.

But the program was widely popular both with the general public and with its beneficiaries, as it allowed Dreamers access to education, credit, social services and work.

At its peak, DACA protected around 800,000 people, although that number has shrunk significantly as many Dreamers have found avenues toward permanent legal status.

The Biden administration's memo outlining the new DACA rule puts on official record DHS's view of the economic contributions of DACA beneficiaries, as well as the size of the U.S.-citizen population that's directly affected by the policy.

According to DHS, "Over 250,000 children have been born in the United States with at least one parent who is a DACA recipient, and about 1.5 million people in the United States share a home with a DACA recipient."

Those households pay $5.6 billion in annual federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes, as well as $556.7 in annual mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rent each year.

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