Vox: "March 5 is supposed to be the DACA 'deadline.' Here’s what that means for immigrants."

by Joseph McKeown

Last September, President Trump announced the termination of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and gave March 5, 2018, as the deadline for Congress to find a legislative solution for the approximately 700,000 DACA recipients. This March 5 deadline arrived this week just after the Supreme Court declined to hear the administration’s appeal of a federal judge's injunction that halted Trump's decision to terminate the DACA program. Currently, because of the recent court injunctions and the actions of the Supreme Court and despite the March 5 deadline, USCIS is accepting DACA renewals only and operating the DACA program on the “terms in place before it was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017, until further notice.”

Both the March 5 deadline and the recent court actions have led to confusion over what the deadline actually meant. The March 5 deadline, as Vox explains, did not mean that all DACA recipients would lose their protections effective March 5. The “expiration date” for DACA recipients is determined by the end date of their individual work permits issued as part of their DACA approval. March 5 was the date that President Trump gave Congress to find a path to legal status for these undocumented immigrants, and last year it was an important date for those filing renewals.  (Last year, individuals whose DACA and work authorization expired between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, could file DACA renewals until October 5, 2017.)

Without these recent court injunctions that have allowed DACA recipients to apply for renewals, the Migration Policy Institute predicted that over the course of two years beginning on March 5, 2018, approximately 915 work permits for DACA recipients would expire each day. Approximately 622,000 DACA recipients’ work permits would expire in August or later. It would take until about February 2019 for more than half of the number of DACA recipients to lose their protection under the program. For those who have lost or will lose their DACA status, the Trump administration has stated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not be actively targeting DACA recipients whose work permits have expired, but even so the loss of DACA status does leave them susceptible to being detained or deported until Congress finds a solution.

The real DACA deadline, as Vox points out, was September 5, 2017, when the government stopped accepting new applications for the DACA program. For these individuals, as well as for current DACA recipients, congressional action is their best hope for a permanent solution. “The thought of losing everything I have worked for is a terrifying thought...[that] haunts me from the moment I wake up, until the second before I close my eyes in bed,” one DACA recipient says. Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, in a statement released to ABC News says: “With no clear path forward on the horizon to protect Dreamers, thousands of immigrant youth are left in limbo and in the sights of Trump’s deportation machine.”