Will nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants lose protection from deportation?
That decision is up to Congress, the Trump administration said Tuesday.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Pulling the plug on DACA overturns President Barack Obama’s signature immigration policy and could upend the lives of more than three quarters of a million people.
But the Trump administration gave Congress a six-month window to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the US.
Who’s been protected by DACA?
These are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as Dreamers.
Since the Obama administration began DACA in 2012, 787,580 people have been approved for the program, according to the latest government figures.
To be eligible, applicants had to have arrived in the US before age 16 and have lived there since June 15, 2007. They could not have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012.
Among the accepted applicants, Mexico is by far the biggest country of origin, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
What does DACA do for them?
DACA recipients have been able to come out of the shadows and obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs. They also pay income taxes.
The program didn’t give them a path to become US citizens or even legal permanent residents — something immigrant rights advocates have criticized, saying it left people in limbo.
How long does the deferral last?
Under DACA, Dreamers were able to apply to defer deportation and legally reside in the US for two years. After that, they could apply for renewal. By March 31, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year and nearly 800,000 renewals had been approved over the life of the program.
Department of Homeland Security officials said Tuesday that they will continue to accept renewal applications for the next month.
What has Trump said about DACA?
When it comes to talking about Dreamers and DACA, Trump has been all over the map.
He vowed to dismantle the program on the campaign trail, but once he took office he signaled he might take a softer stance.
“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids,” Trump said in February. “We’re gonna deal with DACA with heart.”
Last week, when asked whether Dreamers have anything to worry about, Trump said, “We love the Dreamers.”
In a statement Tuesday, Trump said it was time for Congress to act.
“We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful Democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” he said. “We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.”
So what’s the administration planning to do?
The Trump administration says it’s phasing out DACA in a way that will provide “minimum disruption.”
Officials won’t accept new applications to the program, but for current DACA recipients, protections remain in effect — for now.
According to officials:
• Work permits issued under DACA will be honored until they expire.
• New DACA applications already received by Tuesday will be processed.
• Anyone whose status is set to expire by March 5, 2018, has a month to apply for a new two-year permit, and those renewal applications will be processed.
Is there any hope now for Dreamers?
Some lawmakers have proposed a bipartisan measurethat could protect Dreamers from deportation now that the Trump administration is ending DACA.
But a number of past efforts to protect the Dreamers — widely seen as the most sympathetic group of undocumented immigrants — have stalled in Congress, and it’s unclear whether a new initiative would be able to gather the momentum it needs to pass.
What happens if Congress doesn’t act?
If Congress does not pass a measure protecting DACA recipients, nearly 300,000 people could begin to lose their status and be at risk for deportation in 2018. And more than 320,000 would lose their status from January to August 2019.
Why is this coming up now?
Earlier this summer, 10 state attorneys general wrote to the President asking him to end DACA and giving him a September 5 ultimatum.
Their message: Rescind DACA, or get prepared for a legal challenge from us.
The move was praised by groups who advocate for stricter immigration controls, who have long decried DACA as executive overreach and argued that it is akin to providing amnesty for lawbreakers.
Immigrant rights activists had said the attorneys general gave Trump what amounted to a false deadline, calling on the administration to stand its ground and keep the program in place.
But on Tuesday, Trump administration officials said their hands were tied. They described the program as unconstitutional and something they could not successfully defend in court.
Why are people called Dreamers?
The term Dreamers comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. It was first introduced in 2001. The latest version was voted down in the Senate in December 2010.
But the name stuck. And now that the Trump administration has decided to end DACA, you can expect to hear it coming up again in the halls of Congress.
What information and fees were required for DACA?
DACA applicants had to provide evidence they were living in the United States at the prescribed times, proof of education and confirmation of their identities. They also had to pass background, fingerprint and other checks that look at identifying biological features.
The fee to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals, including employment authorization and biometric services, was $495.
Could this information be used against Dreamers now that the program is ending?
This is something immigrant rights advocates say they’re very concerned about and they’ve vowed to take steps to prevent it from happening.
On Tuesday a Department of Homeland Security official said all the information provided to the government by DACA applicants will remain in the department’s system.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the program, will give that information to ICE if requested “where there’s a significant law enforcement or national security interest,” the official said.
Have officials ever canceled DACA protections for anyone?
Yes. Immigration officials say this has happened when a DACA recipient was found to be a threat to either public or national safety. About 1,500 people have had their deferral canceled due to a crime or gang-related activity or admission, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
That’s less than .2% of the total number of people accepted into the program.
Where do I find out more about DACA?
There are answers to more complex questions on the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of Homeland Security has also posted answers to a list of questions about its plans to rescind the program.