DACA Memo: Trump puts Dreamers future in the hands of Congress

On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump Administration was phasing out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The controversial decision to end the Obama-era policy that protects those brought illegally to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, comes after ten Republican attorneys general forced President Trump’s hand to take action on the matter. The Republican attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, challenged Trump with legal action against DACA by seeking to amend another lawsuit already stalled in federal court. The Obama executive action called DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, that would have benefited undocumented parents of legal residents or citizens of the United States.

Former President Barack Obama, called Trump’s decision “wrong,” “self-defeating” and “cruel.” “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us,” he said.

Trump approved the phasing out of DACA starting in six months during which time Congress is expected to find a more permanent solution. Until then, in March 2018, about 800,000 Dreamers will become eligible for deportation. Dreamers received relief from deportation and the ability to legally work and go to school.

What is DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA was implemented through executive-action in 2012. It benefited young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, by providing them with a temporary ‘lawful status’ that allowed them to work legally, obtain driver’s licenses, social security numbers and received relief from deportation. However, DACA does not grant citizenship, nor does it provide a clear pathway get it.

DACA has stringent eligibility requirements. Applicants have to be younger than 31 years old, they must prove that they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and also that they have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007. Those applying for DACA must have clean criminal records, be enrolled in high school or college, or serve in the military. DACA status is renewable every two years.

DACA was created as a way to protect minors and young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally through no fault of their own. Immigration advocates defend that Dreamers were raised and educated in the U.S., they are Americans who only lack legal recognition. Ninety-seven percent of DACA recipients are in school or in the workforce, and not one of them has a criminal history. They are the most sympathetic group amongst undocumented immigrants, with recent polls showing that the majority of Americans, across ideological lines, support both their citizenship and their right to remain in the country. Congress now has the chance to formalize Dreamers’ status.

DACA Memo: Key Info

In a public statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged that once a DACA permit expires, its holder would revert to being an undocumented immigrant, though it emphasized these individuals would not be target nor become a priority. However, they did not offer any assurances Dreamers would avoid deportation altogether if encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They went on to explain that ICE would be able to access the detailed information DHS has on those individuals if deemed necessary.

It is expected that the program will not be fully phased out until March 2020. Until then, the administration will renew two-year work permits as they expire but will stop accepting new applications.

DACA recipients whose legal status expires on or before March 5, 2018, will still be able to renew their two-year period of legal status as long as they apply by Oct. 5, officials said. And U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process all first-time DACA applications received until September 5, 2017, and then stop accepting applications. Officials also stated that the government will not terminate "previously issued deferred action or revoke Employment Authorization Documents," and that it was possible that some of the young immigrants could be prevented from returning to the United States if they traveled abroad.

Trump urges Congress to Act

Mr. Trump told reporters that he had “great love” for the beneficiaries of the program he had just ended. In a late-evening tweet, Mr. Trump signaled he supports legalizing DACA ‘Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!’ he said.

Mr. Trump also warned lawmakers that if they do not legislate a program similar to the one Mr. Obama created through executive authority, he will “revisit this issue!” — a statement that only increased the levels of uncertainty of those who have been benefiting from the program since 2012.

If Congress fails to save the DACA program, the expiration of permits could mean deportation for the nearly 800,000 people currently enrolled in DACA that in most cases have known no other home besides the United States.

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