Biden aims to strengthen DACA

President Joe Biden signs executive orders on his first day in the Oval Office as president. (Image from live stream of event.)

Hours after becoming the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden on Wednesday signed a series of executive actions, including one that calls to “preserve and fortify” protections for Dreamers.

Biden signed a presidential memorandum directing the homeland security secretary, in consultation with the attorney general, to “take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve that goal,” according to a White House factsheet. It continues the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides temporary relief from deportation on a case-by-case basis to Dreamers — undocumented young people brought to this country as children.

The Biden directive also asks Congress to enact legislation that would provide permanent status and a path to citizenship for people who came to this country as children and have “lived, worked, and contributed to our country for many years.”

The Trump administration had tried to end DACA, but last June the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) rescission of DACA, noting that it didn’t follow proper procedure in doing so. As a result, the high court restored the DACA program to how it operated prior to its rescission in 2017. In December, the DHS began accepting DACA applications from first-time applicants in more than three years.

DACA was adopted in 2012 during the Obama-Biden administration. More than 700,000 people have applied for DACA relief since then, according to the factsheet. “Many are serving our country in the armed services or as essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic,” it added.

Hold on student loan payments

Biden also asked the U.S. Education Department to consider extending a freeze on both interest and principal payments for federal student loans until September 30, which the department immediately adopted.

“At the request of President Biden, the Acting Secretary of Education will extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0%,” ED said in a press release. “Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table.”

Biden plans to continue rolling out more executive orders in coming days.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.