DACA renewals and initials changes over the years 

Teresa Balmori Perez, Assistant News Editor

Graphic by Teresa Balmori Perez / The Runner

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also referred to as DACA, has seen a decrease in initial applications over the past five years due to initials being halted after the Fifth Circuit Court ruled the program unlawful. As a result, the program has seen a decrease in DACA renewals ever since the program stopped accepting new applicants.  

The DACA program was established in 2012 by the Obama Administration. The program is administrative protection from deportation for qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as adolescents.  

Initial applications are used when a person applies to the program for the first time. Renewals are only acceptable for people who have been granted DACA and would like to renew their permit, according to Barbara Pinto, an immigration attorney.  

Due to the program being primarily new, the number of renewals and initials increased during the first couple of years of the program. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in 2012 around 152,430 people applied for initials. It then increased to 427,612 by 2013.  

 According to Pinto, DACA recipients have to renew their permit every two years. Due to this, many people renewed for the first time in 2014 with 116,424 renewals and 363,546 in 2015. However, in 2016, it decreased to 187,354 renewals. Pinto explained that the reason for such a decrease is that people might not have met all of the requirements. Because 2016 was also the year that the initial applications went down to 73,347. Compared to 2015, when they had 85,300 initial applications.  

 However, in 2017 the DACA renewals increased to 427,257. Pinto explained that 2017 was the year that former President Donald Trump took office and he frequently threatened to stop the program.  

 “So we kept telling people as the attorneys to renew, even if it wasn’t their time yet, just so they can insure it, they could have it for another two years and extend that protection as long as possible,” Pinto said.  

 On June 29, 2017, Texas and other states, sent a letter to the Attorney General Session stating that DACA was unlawful. However, this ruling wasn’t taken into consideration until the Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit Court, as well as the letter from the Attorney General, resulted in the program being labeled as unconstitutional, according to Homeland Security. Due to this new ruling, it has many undocumented people questioning whether the program will continue in the future.  

 In October 2022, a similar court ruling took place in the Texas District Court, ruling the program unlawful once again, according to the National Immigration Law Center.  

 Daniela Walkover, a 29-year-old DACA recipient, stated that it’s disappointing that Congress is threatening to end DACA and not helping find a way for people to grant citizenship. She explained that DACA recipients are productive members of society and she thinks it’s really sad that some people in Congress try to portray undocumented people as “criminals” or “bad people” in general.  

 “I mean we’ve gone through background checks, we’ve gone through fingerprints, we’ve gone through so many loops to be able to even [qualify for] DACA,” Walkover said.  

 Mariela Gomez, the coordinator for the Dreamers Resource Center at CSUB, explained that the reason why many people in office want to end the program is because when the  program first got established, it didn’t go through the proper steps to get created. In order for a bill to get passed, it has to first go through the House of Representatives and the Senate, then it has to be approved by the president, according to the Human Genome Research Institution. However, because it didn’t go through the proper changes it was issued as an executive memo under the Obama Administration.  

 Gomez explains that she thinks it’s frustrating why some people are still against the program.  

 “[Undocumented people] are working, they’re going to school, they’re paying taxes. I feel like they’re making a positive impact but sometimes people forget that because they think about how they arrived in the country,” Gomez said.  

 Pinto stated that around 2017 and 2018 there was a lawsuit against DACA that resulted in people not being able to apply for the first time. The only people who were still able to apply were current DACA recipients. Many people also feared what the Trump Administration would do to their personal information if they applied or renewed for DACA. As a result, the initial applications went down to 2,060 in 2018, compared to 2017 when there were 45,593 initials. DACA renewals also went down to 258,060 in 2018.  

 According to Walkover, she feels very grateful that she still gets to renew her permit. DACA not only protects undocumented people from deportation, but it also grants them a work permit to legally work in the U.S. She feels that without her work permit, it would be difficult to find a proper workplace that would allow her to provide for her family. She graduated from CSUB with a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations and a master’s degree in public administration. She currently works as an administrative coordinator.  

 In 2018 and 2019 Pinto explained that DACA was being attacked again by Congress and the case was possibly going to go all the way through the Supreme Court. Many attorneys advised recipients to renew their DACA once more just in case anything happened. Because of this, the renewals increased to 384,585 applicants in 2019 and 309,649 in 2020.  

 According to Pinto, there was a period where they were accepting new applicants from December 2020 up until the summer of 2021. However, new cases are still pending for applicants who submitted during that time period.  

 “Several people applied and they are still accepting people…it’s just they won’t receive a decision in their case, ” Pinto said.  

 According to Yvette Santana, the associate director for TRIO at CSUB, who has worked with and provided guidance to undocumented students through the TRIO program, which assists students from disadvantaged backgrounds in pursuing higher education, has stated over the years she has seen a decrease in undocumented students who are DACA recipients due to many students unable to apply for the program because of pending cases or not being eligible to meet the requirements. Some of the requirements to be eligible for the program are that the person must be under the age of 31 as of June 2012, have entered the country before turning 16, must be currently enrolled in school, or has graduated or has obtained a GED or some form of certificate, and they must have not convicted any crimes or felonies, according to Immigrants Rising.  

 “We want [DACA recipients] to have basic human needs met…I don’t think it’s fair for you know, young kids who were brought here to be limited and to have to live in the shadows,” Santana said. 

 Despite the low number of DACA applicants during the 2016-2020 period, in 2021 there was an increase in DACA renewals with 344,710 under the Biden Administration.  

 “So [Biden] was the vice president when Obama announced [DACA] so he was a part of the administration that created DACA so he wanted to keep DACA,” Pinto said.  

 Nevertheless, the DACA renewals then decrease to 280,682 in 2022. Pinto explained that there could be many factors for such a decrease. One could be that many DACA recipients have now received other types of residencies such as Visas and green cards, or have now become U.S. citizens either through marriage or a special immigration juvenile status.  

 Walkover is one of the thousands of DACA recipients who are in the process of earning citizenship through marriage. However, the process for her has been very slow and frustrating.   

“So the process for citizenship has been long, slow, and scary because at any point if we submit something incorrectly or if it gets declined pretty much means I have to leave,” Walkover said.  

 According to Walkover. It’s been almost three years since she has started her application for citizenship. She went on to explain that everyone’s circumstances are different when it comes to applying to become a U.S. citizen. The process of becoming a citizen may take two years for many people and longer for others.  

 She explains that despite all of the challenges that the program has faced, she believes that DACA will still continue in the future and she hopes they can create a pathway for citizenship for them.  

 However, Pinto believes that DACA at some point will just be a program for current recipients and not for newly eligible people due to the program not changing its requirements since 2012. She went on to explain that people who wish to apply for DACA have to show that they entered the country before June 15, 2007.  

 Gomez explains that while it’s still great that there are still people out there who may renew their DACA, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the program’s future.  

 Regardless of the circumstances that have occurred within the program, senators Dick Durbin and Linsey Graham put forth a potential bill called the Dream Act 2023 on February 9. Young undocumented immigrants will have a path to legal residency. DACA recipients will be allowed to work legally in the US and go overseas without the fear of being unable to return, according to the National Immigration Forum.