The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that over the next six months it would phase out a program that has enabled about 800,000 undocumented young people to avoid deportation, placing their fate in the hands of Congress.
Speaking on behalf of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority.”
“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple,” Sessions said at a briefing at the Department of Justice on Tuesday.
President Obama created the DACA program through an executive order in 2012 to address the needs of “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. DACA allowed dreamers to work legally and attend school as long as they met certain requirements.
Sessions called on Congress to create an alternative to the DACA program before it is scheduled to expire on March 6, 2018.
A group of 10 state attorney generals had set Tuesday as the deadline for the Trump administration to end the DACA program or face a legal challenge.
According to a memo from the Department of Homeland Security released on Tuesday, no new DACA applications will be accepted after today.
The nearly 800,000 young people who are already enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire. Under the terms of the program, work permits must be renewed every two years.
Any applications that were received before today, as well as DACA renewals, will be reviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) “on an individual, case-by-case basis.”
After October 5, USCIS will reject all requests to renew DACA and related applications.
Efforts at creating a legislative solution to immigration issues have faltered in Congress. For example, in 2010, legislation aimed at creating a path to citizenship for undocumented young people who came to the country as children passed the House of Representatives before dying in the Senate.
With Trump giving Congress a March deadline for action, one possibility is legislation recently introduced in the Senate in July by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Under the terms of the Dream Act legislation, more than one million young people who arrived in the country as children would be granted permanent legal status as long as they met several criteria, including graduating high school, passing security checks, and were pursuing higher education, working for at least three years or serving in the military.
According to Wendy Cervantes, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy, the lives of about 800,000 DACA recipients “have been turned upside down.” Many will lose work authorization soon and will not be able to apply for permission to travel abroad.
In light of the new administration’s immigration policies, many DACA recipients will also now have to wonder whether their personal information will be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that handles deportation.
“While DHS claims that the personal information of DACA beneficiaries will not be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for enforcement purposes, the agency’s aggressive immigration enforcement efforts over the past several months are enough to doubt the Administration’s commitment to leave DACA youth unharmed,” Cervantes said in an email response to The Chronicle of Social Change.