The Supreme Court’s DACA ruling and skills: what states and localities can do now

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, July 25, 2016

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Texas has had ripple effects for millions of undocumented immigrants and the American communities in which they reside. This short Q-and-A explains key facets of the case from a skills perspective, and provides examples of how states and localities can address skill-building needs among young Dreamers even as the case returns to the trial court.

What was the DAPA case about?

The case concerned the Obama administration’s 2014 proposal to expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and launch a new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

Both programs would have allowed eligible undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary protection from deportation and 2-year renewable work permits.

DACA is focused on young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, while DAPA focuses on undocumented parents of US citizen children (or lawful permanent resident children).

Neither the implementation of DAPA nor the expansion of DACA was ever put into effect, because 26 states that opposed the programs brought suit in federal court to stop them. A federal judge issued an injunction to delay implementation while the Supreme Court case was decided.

How did the Supreme Court rule?

The Supreme Court issued a 4-4 ruling that lets stand a lower court’s nationwide injunction blocking implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA. Now, the case has returned to the federal district court in Texas, where a trial on the merits of the case will be held.  

(The Obama administration has also asked the Supreme Court to re-hear the case once the Court has returned to its normal complement of nine justices. To stay up-to-date on developments with the case, follow the National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council.)

Does the Supreme Court ruling affect WIOA?

The Supreme Court ruling had no effect on WIOA’s existing eligibility requirements.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides adult education, job training, and other workforce services to people across the United States. Its eligibility requirements with regard to immigrants are unchanged:

  • Immigrants must be legally work-authorized in order to be eligible for WIOA Title I (workforce) services, including Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth programs. Policy guidance from the US Department of Labor affirms that DACA recipients are included among those eligible
  • In contrast, WIOA Title II (adult education) is silent on the question of immigration status. Undocumented immigrants are allowed to participate in Title II programs nationwide, except in Arizona and Georgia (which have restrictive state-level immigration laws).

What has happened to existing DACA recipients?

The original DACA program was launched in 2012. It is still in effect. Only the expansion of DACA – which among other changes would have removed an age cap and allowed more young people to apply – was halted by the Supreme Court ruling.

Under the original program, approximately 750,000 young people have already been granted DACA status. The status of these DACA recipients has not changed as a result of the court ruling. Their work permits continue to be valid, and they continue to be eligible to renew those work permits for additional 2-year periods – as long as future Presidential administrations continue the DACA program. (See “What will happen next?” below.)

In addition, the original DACA program is still accepting new applications. Thus, young people who meet the eligibility requirements for original DACA, but have not yet applied, may still do so.

What can states and localities do?

States and localities can work within current federal policy to improve skills-related access and outcomes for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible youth. Below, we outline five areas that states and localities can address through service provision, improved institutional coordination, policy development and implementation, and local funding.

  • Implement adult education and other services to help additional young people who are eligible for the original DACA program to apply. There are an estimated 400,000 young people who would be eligible for DACA if they met educational requirements. Read our Skills Blog post on how New York City tackled this issue.
  • Ensure that existing DACA recipients are able to access job-training assistance. As noted above, DACA recipients are work-authorized, and thus eligible for WIOA Title I services. Learn how one Arizona nonprofit has helped DACA recipients access Individual Training Account funds and obtain employment. States can facilitate DACA recipients’ access to Title I by disseminating the federal policy guidance and providing additional formal or informal guidance to local workforce boards and other stakeholders.
  • Incorporate the needs of DACA recipients and DACA-eligible young people into local WIOA planning, including Title II adult education and Title I Youth services, as appropriate. (View state- and county-level data on the DACA-eligible population, and state-level data on DACA recipients.)
  • Support effective pathway navigation, guidance, and counseling services that equip DACA youth to make wise choices about vocational training and other avenues to employment. As appropriate, such efforts should be incorporated in the creation and implementation of career pathways under WIOA.

Learn more about how DACA recipients are benefitting from upskilling opportunities in these prior posts from NSC’s Skills Blog.

What will happen next?

There are a variety of potential developments that would affect DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals. As described above, the court case in US v. Texas now returns to federal district court for a trial on the merits.

The policy landscape will also be affected by the results of the Presidential election in November 2016. The Presidential candidates have taken dramatically different positions on DACA and DAPA. The presumptive Democratic nominee has vowed to continue the existing DACA program, defend DAPA, and pursue comprehensive immigration reform in Congress.

In contrast, the Republican Presidential nominee has said that he would discontinue the existing DACA program and seek to deport all of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.