Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals | Federal Policy and Examples of State Actions


Homeland Security LogoOn Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum rescinding the DACA program. The program was phased out over 6 months, ending March 5, 2018. Bipartisan legislation (S.1615 and H.R.3440), entitled the Dream Act of 2017, is pending in Congress.  

On Jan. 9, 2018, a U.S. district judge ordered that DACA recipients be allowed to continue submitting renewal applications pending final decision on the litigation. DHS has resumed processing renewal applications. New DACA applications are not permitted. Pending applications will be adjudicated on a case by case basis. Deferred action status and employment authorization documents will continue to be valid for two years from date of issuance.

On April 24th, 2018, a federal judge ruled that DACA protections must stay in place and the government must resume accepting new applications. The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia found that the administration’s decision to end the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious. The judge stayed his decision for 90 days to give DHS the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling the program, and if it fails to do so, it must accept and process all new and renewal DACA applications.

An estimated 690,000 immigrant youth have DACA status. State by state estimates by the Migration Policy Institute can be found here

For more information, see the DHS FAQ and fact sheet.


In 2012, DHS issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy to allow young unauthorized immigrants who are low enforcement priorities to remain in the country with temporary lawful status. A person who receives deferred action is considered to be lawfully present and may apply for work authorization. Deferred action is permitted for a renewable period of two years but it does not grant legal immigration status nor a pathway to citizenship. Deferred action under DACA may be terminated if the recipient engages in criminal activity, leaves the country without advanced parole, or if the program is repealed.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has accepted applications from individuals residing in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. The top  10 states of residence are California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia and Washington. There are more than 25 different countries of origin, with the top 10 countries of origin being Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, South Korea, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and the Philippines. As of March 31, 2017, USCIS has granted deferred status to 787,580 people under DACA.

Eligibility Requirements

The person must:

  • Have entered the country before the age of 16 and be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.
  • Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • Be at least 15 years of age and be in school, have graduated high school, received a GED or have been honorably discharged from military service.

The individual must not:

  • Have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor nor multiple misdemeanor offenses. Examples of significant misdemeanor offenses include violence, threats or assaults; burglary; obstruction of justice or bribery; driving under the influence; unlawful possession or use of a firearm; or unlawful possession of drugs.

Exemptions to eligibility requirements and application fee requirements: 

  • If an individual who is younger than 15 years of age is in the process of removal, has an order of removal or a voluntary departure order, and is not presently in an immigration detention, then the individual may be exempt from the age requirement criteria.
  • If an individual is under the age of 18 and is homeless or makes less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level and is in foster care or otherwise lacks familial support, then the individual may file to receive a fee exemption.
  • If an individual is not economically independent due to a serious illness and an income amounting to less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level or has a debt totaling more than $10,000 due to medical expenses for the individual or an immediate family member and has an income amounting to less than 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level, then the individual may file to receive a fee exemption.


State Responses

After DACA's implementation, many states considered whether to provide or deny state benefits such as driver’s licenses or instate tuition to noncitizens, including people granted deferred action.

Driver’s Licenses

Before DACA, three states—New Mexico, Utah and Washington—issued driver’s licenses or driving privilege cards to unauthorized immigrants. After DACA, California was the first to act to allow deferred action recipients to be issued driver’s licenses. All states now issue driver's licenses to DACA recipients. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state. 

In-State Tuition Bills

Twenty states offer in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students, 16 by state legislative action and four by state university systems. Sixteen state legislatures—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington—enacted laws to allow in-state tuition benefits for certain unauthorized immigrant students. At least four state university systems—in Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma and Rhode Island—established policies to offer in-state tuition rates to unauthorized immigrant students. Seven states—California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington—and the District of Columbia offer state-funded financial aid to unauthorized immigrant students. In April 2014, the Virginia attorney general advised that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under the DACA program qualify for in-state tuition. Two states prohibit undocumented students from enrolling in public higher-education institutions – Alabama and South Carolina. However, these states allow DACA recipients to enroll in public colleges and universities and some institutions in Alabama allow DACA recipients to receive in-state tuition rate. The State Board of Regents in Georgia prohibits certain institutions from admitting undocumented students. 

Health Care

DACA recipients are ineligible for most forms of government health care assistance including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. Some states, such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington state and Washington, D.C., have opted to fund health insurance to all children regardless of immigration status.

State Professional Licenses

The requirements to obtain a professional license vary from state to state. Ten states – California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming – have enacted legislation to provide legal and/or unauthorized immigrants with professional licenses. California passed legislation allowing qualified applicants could be admitted to the state bar regardless of their immigration status. California also enacted a measure allowing about 40 state boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number as proof of identification in lieu of a Social Security number when considering applications. Florida enacted legislation permitting the Supreme Court to admit certain unauthorized immigrant students to practice law if they received employment authorization from the federal government, a Social Security number, and fulfilled all state requirements.

At least four states – Illinois, Florida, Nebraska and New York – allow DACA recipients to receive certain professional licenses. Illinois and Florida allows eligible DACA recipients to receive law licenses. The New York Board of Regents allows eligible DACA recipients to receive a professional license and some teacher certifications. Nebraska issues professional and commercial licenses to eligible DACA recipients. 

Deferred Action Timeline

June 15, 2012 –  The DACA program is created by DHS memorandum.

Aug. 15, 2012 – Individuals begin filing DACA applications with USCIS.

Nov. 20, 2014 – The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program and the DACA expansion is announced.

Dec. 03, 2014 – Texas v. United States is filed by 22 states: Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and by five politicians from Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Feb. 16, 2015 – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas grants a preliminary injunction, blocking the implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA.

Mar. 12 2015 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) files an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to lift the implementation block.

Nov. 9, 2015 – The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the preliminary injunction.

Jan. 19 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear United States v. Texas

June 15 2017 – DHS announces the rescission of the DAPA program.

Jun 23 2016 – The U.S. Supreme Court arrives at a 4-4 decision, leaving the Fifth Circuit’s decision in place.

June 29, 2017 – Texas and 9 states request Attorney General Jeff Sessions to repeal the DACA program by September 5, 2017.

July 21, 2017 – California and 18 states plus the District of Columbia wrote a letter to the president requesting continuation of DACA.             

Sept. 5, 2017 - DHS officially rescinds DACA by memorandum with a six month phaseout. 

Sept. 6, 2017 - New York and 14 states plus the District of Columbia file a lawsuit seeking a halt to the rescission of DACA. 

Jan. 9, 2018 – A San Francisco-based U.S. District Court judge ordered the administration to resume accepting renewal applications for DACA

Feb. 26, 2018 – The Supreme Court declines to take up an immediate appeal of court decisions resuming DACA renewals

April 24, 2018 – A federal judge ruled that DACA must stay in place and DHS must accept new and renewal applications


DACA Approved Applications 


DACA Approved Applications October 2012-March 2017
State Initial Application Renewal Applications Totatl Applications
California 222,795 202,200 424,995
Texas 124,300 110,050 234,350
New York 41,970 53,693 95,663
Illinois 42,376 37,039 79,415
Florida 32,795 41,526 74,321
Arizona 27,865 23,638 51,503
North Carolina 27,385 22,327 49,712
New Jersey 22,024 25,106 47,130
Georgia 24,135 21,804 45,939
Washington 17,843 16,275 34,118
Colorado 17,258 14,302 31,560
Virginia 12,134 13,272 25,406
Nevada 13,070 11,771 24,841
Maryland 9,785 10,917 20,702
Oregon 11,281 9,610 20,891
Massachusetts 7,934 10,854 18,788
Indiana 9,840 8,076 17,916
Utah 9,711 7,474 17,185
Tennessee 8,340 6,950 15,290
Pennsylvania 5,889 8,178 14,067
Michigan 6,430 7,443 13,873
Wisconsin 7,565 6,298 13,863
Minnesota 6,255 6,236 12,491
Oklahoma 6,865 5,771 12,636
Kansas 6,803 5,647 12,450
New Mexico 6,815 5,236 12,051
South Carolina 6,406 5,382 11,788
Connecticut 4,929 5,882 10,811
Ohio 4,442 5,124 9,566
Arkansas 5,099 4,255 9,354
Alabama 4,270 3,584 7,854
Missouri 3,524 3,407 6,931
Nebraska 3,371 2,970 6,341
Kentucky 3,062 2,786 5,848
Idaho 3,132 2,694 5,826
Iowa 2,798 2,780 5,578
Louisiana 2,049 2,219 4,268
Rhode Island 1,229 1,733 2,962
Delaware 1,444 1,417 2,861
Mississippi 1,460 1,326 2,786
Hawaii 558 1,740 2,298
District of Columbia 764 1,049 1,813
Wyoming 621 520 1,141
New Hampshire 367 599 966
Alaska 138 419 557
South Dakota 252 311 563
Maine 95 334 429
North Dakota 98 260 358
West Virginia 117 200 317
Montana 72 164 236
Vermont 42 162 204
Source: USCIS DACA Applications Data      


Additional Resources

NCSL Resources

Other Resources

Prepared by:

Maria Pimienta, Immigrant Policy Project summer intern and Ann Morse, program director, Immigrant Policy Project