Nearly 800,000 immigrants are affected by the White House decision this week to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in six months. Under DACA, these residents—brought here illegally when they were children—have been allowed to live and work in the U.S. DACA recipients are often called DREAMers, after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors act, which offered many of the same protections as DACA but never passed Congress. The Trump administration change in policy means the DACA recipients are now facing such challenges as deportation, finding health coverage, or even obtaining driver’s licenses.
Here’s what we know about what could happen next with DACA recipients.
In the short term...
DACA recipients might not have to fret about being targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that “for all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about - No action!”
Those whose DACA work permits expire between now and March 5, 2018—the end of the six-month period—have until October 5 to apply for a renewal. But the Department of Homeland Security is not accepting any submissions from new applicants.
In the intermediate term...
Trump has urged Congress to take up the issue, tweeting that lawmakers should “get ready to do your job.” He’s also mentioned that he’d revisit the program if Congress can’t legalize it. Despite pressure under both Democratic and Republican presidents, Congress has famously failed to reform American immigration policy. Yet House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted compromise on DACA was possible.
“We’ve got a timeline, six months, now we’ve got to go find where the consensus is on how to come to it with a solution,” Ryan told the New York Times on Thursday. “The DACA dilemma is a symptom that stems from the fact that we do not have control of our borders. So it is only reasonable that while fixing this serious, real problem, we also try and address the root cause of that problem, and that is border security.”
There are already a few proposals in the works. The Democrats largely support the DREAM Act, which was introduced in July by Democratic Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, from California, and had the support of about 120 lawmakers, the Huffington Post reported. There’s also the GOP-backed RAISE Act, which would lower immigration by “rebalancing the system toward employment-based visas and immediate-family household members,” according to co-sponsor Senator Tom Cotton, the Republican from Arkansas.
In the long term...
Unless something is done, DACA recipients will begin losing protection on March 5, 2018. The next steps are unclear.
Because DREAMers had to submit personal information proving their immigration status when they first applied for DACA, the government knows exactly where they are for easy deportation, as Vox explained.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would not “proactively” provide a DREAMer’s location to immigration officials, but would do so if the DACA recipient “poses a risk to national security or public safety” or “meets the criteria for the issuance of a Notice to Appear or a referral to ICE”—bureaucratic language that suggests Homeland Security will comply with immigration requests for information.
But President Trump said his agencies would only target DACA recipients who commit crimes.
“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged. We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border crossers, visa overstays and repeat violators,” Trump said in a statement. “I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity or are members of a gang.”
Trump has continued the Obama-era deportations of criminals, but critics say his administration has also swept up many people whose only crime is being undocumented. Overall, deportations have jumped 31 percent this year compared to the same period last year, as Fox News reported.