The Trump administration formally announced on Tuesday that they will begin to end the Obama-era program that has protected thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling the policy unconstitutional. The Trump administration suggested Congress could replace the program with legislation that would provide these immigrants with some form of legal status before the program expires on March 5, 2018. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was enacted in 2012 by former President Obama through executive action and has since protected approximately 800,000 young immigrants, known as “dreamers”, who were brought to the US illegally as children, from being deported. The program has also provided these immigrants with renewable, two-year work permits. If Congress fails to act before the program expires on March 5, 2018, these undocumented “dreamers” could face deportation back to countries where many of them have never even lived.
In a press conference held at the Department of Justice, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Obama’s decision to implement DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive authority. “The executive branch through DACA deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” Sessions said. He also said that the program would not be able to withstand court scrutiny if challenged and, as a result, immigrants would lose their work permits immediately. This statement by Sessions is in response to a letter he received from ten state attorneys general threatening to challenge the program in court if it was not rescinded by September 5th. “The Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach. There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, and enforce our laws,” Sessions said.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Acting Secretary Elaine Duke also issued a statement in response to the decision to rescind DACA. “As a result of recent litigation, we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. We chose the least disruptive option,” Duke said. While this announcement has formally begun the process that could potentially revoke legal status from those protected under DACA, it has shifted some of the burden onto Congress to provide a legislative solution. In the meantime, those currently enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire. Those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018 will be able to apply for a renewal of their two-year permit by October 5th. New applications and applications for renewal received by DHS before Tuesday will still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, even if those work permits are set to expire after March 5, 2018, according to the agency. If Congress fails to pass a law protecting these young immigrants before March 5, 2018, Senior DHS officials have explained that these dreamers will not be high priorities for deportations. Instead, they would be issued a notice to appear in immigration court if they were encountered by immigration officials after their work permits expired, unless they were considered to be a threat to national security.
This decision to rescind DACA has been met with a great deal of backlash from immigrant rights groups and activists. One immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, tweeted the President urging him not to take this action against DACA. Over 150 immigration activists protested outside of the White House, calling Trump a “liar” and a “monster.” Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called this decision “inhumane, cruel and shameful,” according to the Washington Post. Javier Palomarez, president of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, announced his formal resignation from Trump’s presidential diversity committee as a result of what he calls this “disgraceful action.” The House of Representatives Minority Leader for California Nancy Pelosi called this decision “quite possibly the cruelest thing President Trump has ever done” and immediately sent a fundraising pitch to Democratic supporters.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, former President Obama also criticized the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. "This is about young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," Obama wrote. The former president went on to further state that targeting these young people who only aim to contribute to our country is not only cruel, but legally unnecessary. "Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people — and who we want to be," he wrote.
While most are hopeful that Congress will pass legislation before DACA expires, we must continue to fight for the dreamers! Pro-immigrant activists have begun urging the public at large to call their local congressman and tell them to vote for legislation that would protect these young immigrants. If you would like to call your local Senator or Representative, you may visit Dreamacttoolkit.org, which provides the telephone numbers and twitter handles for congressmen throughout the country so that you can request that they pass the Dream Act, which would secure a path to permanent legal status for these dreamers. Alternatively, supporters can call (866) 834-8040 and urge their local congressman to keep DACA. If you do not know the telephone number for your local congressman, callmycongress.com will provide you with contact information based on your address and zip code. Every vote in Congress towards a legislative resolution for this decision to rescind DACA helps!
Although the recent announcement by the Trump administration poses a great threat towards hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who now face the possibility of deportation, Representatives such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan believe that this is something that Congress must finally fix through proper legislation, as they have chosen not to do so too many times before. “It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country,” Ryan said.