On the anniversary of the implementation of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects approximately 800,000 immigrants (also called “dreamers”) who came to the US as children with no legal status by shielding them from deportation and providing them with work authorization for periods of two years, the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally eliminated a similar program proposed to protect the undocumented parents of these dreamers.
The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans or Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program was an expansion of the DACA program that could have potentially protected approximately five million parents of lawful permanent resident/US citizen-children from deportation while also providing these undocumented parents with work authorization.
John F. Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), stated in the June 15th memorandum that the DAPA program is being rescinded “because there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy.” He is referring to the result of the twenty-six state challenge to the DAPA program, led by the state of Texas, which halted the DAPA program before it was enacted. Ultimately, the Supreme Court deadlocked on the case in a 4-4 vote, but this decision by the Trump administration has now officially put an end to the litigation. The Department of Homeland Security’s memorandum also rescinded a provision in the DAPA program that sought to expand work authorization for DACA recipients for three years, rather than two. The DHS memorandum, however, noted that the “June 15, 2012 memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”
Although the Trump administration has vowed to leave the DACA program in place for now—which is good news for many—its future is still unclear. “There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” Jonathan Hoffman, assistant secretary for public affairs at DHS, tells the New York Times. Hoffman adds that Secretary Kelly “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.” Even though Kelly claimed in a recent congressional testimony that DACA recipients are not being targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation, the arrests of some DACA recipients has led activists throughout the country to be concerned with the administration’s motives.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, congresswoman for New Mexico, calls the recent actions “deceitful,” as well as “another effort to keep immigrant families feeling uncomfortable about their place in America.” Grisham further states that while keeping the DACA program in place, the administration’s policy decisions and enforcement “continue to create fear and anxiety in immigrant communities.” Lynn Tramonte, deputy director for America’s Voice, an immigrants rights group, notes: “DACA remains in place–for now–but it’s clear that they are using it as a cover to deport everyone else. What’s more, this administration has been cynically wielding its enforcement authorities over certain DACA recipients. This is a classic move used by abusers to keep their targets–in this case DACA recipients–feeling vulnerable and ‘in check.’” Congressman Luis Gutiérrez finds the timing of the memorandum’s release to be troubling, telling NBC News that it appears to be a way to add “a little bitterness” to the day, while reminding immigrants that they should continue to live in a fearful state.
Advocates of tougher immigration enforcement and policies were not as pleased with the decision about DACA. Mark Krikorian, who leads the Center for Immigration Studies, a group aimed at decreasing immigration to the US, says that continuing the DACA program is “a sign of betrayal.” Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations at NumbersUSA, another group that wants to reduce immigration, is also disappointed by the decision to continue DACA. “I certainly am very happy that Secretary Kelly ended DAPA…that is a good thing and needed to happen—but it does not fulfill Trump’s campaign promise. DACA needs to be ended,” she tells the Los Angeles Times.
Studies have shown the DACA program has had vastly positive effects. The National UnDACAmented Project, a study on the effects of DACA on young immigrants, argues that the program opened both educational and employment opportunities up for DACA recipients. The program not only improved their personal lives, but also their local economies, according to the study’s authors Roberto Gonzales and Kristina Brant. Jaime Rangel, a DACA recipient and college student in Georgia, tells NBC news that he was able to obtain a better job and even afford college tuition as a result of the program. "The fact that Trump is going to keep DACA does make me feel safe, comfortable,” he tells NBC News. “They need to help people who have been in country a long time and are paying taxes to earn some kind of immigration status. We have a lot of people here who are just trying live the American Dream and who are not criminals and are just fleeing their countries that have turned their backs on them and are fleeing violence and corruption."