WASHINGTON ― The Trump administration is officially terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in six months and punting the matter to Congress, putting nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation if the president and members of the House and Senate can’t make a deal to protect them.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump sent out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce his policy decision. Sessions has opposed the DACA program since its inception under President Barack Obama in 2012, and as a senator, he helped block legislative efforts to help so-called “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as children.
DACA protections, which last for two years and allow Dreamers to work legally, won’t end immediately. Current DACA recipients whose permits expire by March 5 can apply to renew them until Oct. 5. Individuals who do not currently have DACA protections cannot receive permits unless they applied to the program before Sept. 5.
Dreamers whose permits expire on March 6 or later will begin to lose their protections and work permits as soon as they expire, putting them at risk of deportation.
Losing DACA protections would put Dreamers at risk of being sent away from the country they’ve lived in since they were children. Although administration officials have said their focus is on deporting criminals, they have also made clear that no undocumented immigrant is safe from being detained or forced out of the country. That includes Dreamers, some of whom have already been locked up.
The official Trump administration announcement comes on the Sept. 5 deadline set by 10 state attorneys general who threatened legal action if Trump did not announce a phaseout of DACA by that date. Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III (R) backed off that threat last week, but the others continued to demand an end to the program. The threat was not a court order, so it was not a mandate for the Trump administration to end the program ahead of a legal challenge or ruling.
Trump decided to end DACA against the wishes of Democrats and some members of his own party, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Congress should get the chance to pass a bill.
Ahead of Trump’s announcement, a number of Republicans said they would be willing to support protections for Dreamers that Democrats have attempted to get through Congress multiple times.
Most Republicans opposed those past measures, including the Dream Act, a bill first introduced in 2001 that would grant legal status to some undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The bill has a small number of Republican supporters, but the White House immediately shot it down when it was re-introduced in the Senate in July.