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The Biden administration's new DACA guidance is officially in place, but court battles still loom

The federal government is now implementing updated guidance from the Biden administration on how to handle applications for DACA. The Obama-era program gives temporary protection from deportation and a work permit to some undocumented people brought to the U.S. as kids.

The new rule doesn’t change DACA’s eligibility. Rather, it was meant to fortify the program as legal uncertainty looms.

Under the new guidance, current DACA recipients can keep their status and continue to apply for renewal. First-time applicants are still blocked by ongoing litigation. 

Last month, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a lower court in Texas that found the Obama-era version of the program was illegal but allowed current recipients to remain in the program. 

Even without the ongoing court battles over its future, DACA does not grant a pathway to U.S. citizenship. 

It a release about the new guidance, Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would still accept first-time applicants, but was barred from processing them because of the Texas lawsuit. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said long-term solutions would need to be decided in Congress.  

“This final rule is our effort to preserve and fortify DACA to the fullest extent possible,” he said in the release. "Ultimately, we need Congress to urgently pass legislation that provides Dreamers with the permanent protection they need and deserve.”

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.