A rally for Dreamers in San Francisco in 2017. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen via Wikimedia Commons

The Department of Homeland Security said on Friday it will issue a proposed rule to preserve and fortify a program for immigrants known as “Dreamers” who are living illegally in the United States after entering as children.

President Joe Biden issued a memo on Jan. 20, his first day in office, that directed the agency and the U.S. Attorney General to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects Dreamer immigrants from deportation.

“We are taking action to preserve and fortify DACA. This is in keeping with the President’s memorandum,” Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.

“It is an important step, but only the passage of legislation can give full protection and a path to citizenship to the Dreamers who know the U.S. as their home,” he said.

There are an estimated 200,000 Dreamers in California and nearly 50,000 in San Diego County.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a bill providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, but the legislation faces an uncertain future in the deeply divided Senate.

DACA was created by President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president. Republican former President Donald Trump had tried to end the program.

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