The Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it would begin phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program on March 5, 2018.
The program, introduced by President Barack Obama through executive action five years ago, offered certain young undocumented immigrants, typically brought to the United States as children, work permits and a two-year renewable reprieve from deportation.
Since the program’s inception, nearly 800,000 have signed up. In many states, these so-called Dreamers have been eligible not only to work but also to receive driver’s licenses and in-state tuition at public colleges.
President Trump, who previously expressed sympathy for DACA recipients, called for the issue to be resolved “through the lawful democratic process,” saying that the program amounted to executive overreach by Mr. Obama.
What We Know
• The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Homeland Security unit that administers DACA, will not process new applications for the program received after Tuesday.
• There were 106,341 requests pending as of Aug. 20: 34,487 initial requests and 71,854 renewals.
• Those who have DACA status can keep it until it expires. Beneficiaries whose status expires before March 5, 2018 can renew their two-year deportation protection and work permit by Oct. 5. There are approximately 200,000 people in this group, the last to benefit from the program, which will fully expire in 2020.
• Unless Congress acts in their favor, DACA recipients will begin to lose protection March 6, 2018. They will no longer be eligible for lawful employment and they will be deportable. However, recipients who renew their status before March 6 can continue to work for the length of their renewal, which may be up to two years.
• The announcement to repeal the program puts pressure on lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation, such as the long-stalled Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the Dream Act, a proposal to grant residency and a path to citizenship to young immigrants.
• Polls show that DACA beneficiaries garner broad support from the American public as well as from Democrats and many moderate Republicans, largely because their immigration violation was not committed by choice — they were children when they came to the country — and because they were raised in the United States.
• Information that DACA recipients provided to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, including addresses, fingerprints and other details, will not be provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the purpose of making arrests.
• Department of Homeland Security officials said former DACA recipients would not be a priority for deportation unless they commit crimes. But given Trump administration policies that have made all undocumented immigrants deportable, it would be up to immigration agents to decide whether former DACA recipients would be spared when they are encountered, say, during an arrest of another immigrant.
What We Don’t Know
• Mr. Trump called on Congress to come up with a solution after his administration announced that it would end DACA. Lawmakers have drafted several bills but it is unclear whether a divided Congress will agree on a solution before March 5.
• It is not clear whether there will be any change in how pending DACA applications are reviewed. Because DACA is discretionary, the Department of Homeland Security can begin to deny more cases, experts say. Until now, the overwhelming majority of applicants were approved, unless they had committed a serious crime or did not meet other criteria for eligibility.
• If Congress does not act before DACA expires, it is not clear how employers will handle the termination of employees who have work permits thanks to the program. How businesses will be affected by the loss of workers, who include engineers, teachers, health care providers and other professionals, is also unknown.
• DACA beneficiaries may seek alternative means to stay in the United States and work legally, such as asylum, a family-based visa or marriage.
• It is unclear how the immigration service, which has been understaffed in the past, will handle a flood of renewal applications in the next month.