President Donald Trump on Tuesday moved to end the program that protects young undocumented immigrants — known as “dreamers” — from being deported. Under the plan, which was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Congress has six months to come up with a legislative fix for the program, which will now expire next March.
Who will be affected?
Nearly 800,000 people have been approved under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, since the program was created by executive order by then-President Barack Obama in 2012. DACA gives participants a two-year deferral — which can be renewed — from being considered for deportation, and also grants work authorization. Anyone who was brought to the country illegally as a minor, was under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 (when DACA took effect), and meets other requirements, is eligible to apply.
Where are DACA recipients from?
Mexico is by far the leading country of origin for DACA recipients, with 1.2 million approved applications through March 31, according to the latest federal government data. El Salvador is second with 58,633, followed by Guatemala with 39,258 approvals.
How Mr. Trump’s plan works
Under the plan, the DACA program will end on March 5, 2018. Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security will not accept new applicants for the program. The roughly 800,000 people who are currently protected under the program won’t see their status change immediately, but could be vulnerable to deportation if Congress does not pass a law by March granting them protection. The six-month delay was intended to give Congress enough time to replace the program with a permanent legislative solution.
Sessions says: “The policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions.”
In June, 11 attorneys general — from conservative states like Texas, Arkansas, West Virginia and Kansas — threatened to sue the Trump administration unless it took steps by Sept. 5 to end the program. For months, senior Trump administration officials have expressed concern that DACA would not stand up in court. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also reportedly told the president the Justice Department would not defend the program.
The decision will be popular with Trump’s base, in particular with hard-line immigration opponents on the far right who have opposed DACA since the moment it launched five years ago. But like some of Trump’s other controversial decisions that appealed to his base — such as the proposed travel ban and ban on transgender people serving in the military — ending DACA won’t play well with moderate Republicans.
Last Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a radio interview that he wanted Trump to keep the program in place while Congress comes up with a legislative fix. Other Republicans, like Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have also come out against ending DACA. The decision will also be deeply unpopular on the left. On Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said ending DACA would be “one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president.”
It’s also unclear if there is enough appetite in Congress to pass a measure, relatively quickly, that would grant protection to young undocumented immigrants. Some Republicans, like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have long called on Congress to pass a law addressing the “dreamers’” immigration status. But any law aimed at protecting the “dreamers” will likely face stiff opposition from conservative Republicans.