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'Dreamers' face tight deadline to renew DACA permits

In a move toward fulfilling a campaign promise to the president’s anti-immigrant base, the Trump administration on Tuesday announced an end to a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — the program that protects the so-called Dreamers, immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

But Trump, mindful of the popular support for the program, will not cut off anyone’s protections immediately. The long-term fate of the Dreamers is now back in the hands of a fractious Congress, which has repeatedly proven to be a graveyard for immigration reform legislation.


What is DACA?

The program was created by executive action by President Obama in June 2012, as a way to allow certain immigrants in the country illegally to go to school and work legally, without having to stay in the shadows and dodge immigration authorities. In order to qualify, applicants had to be in the U.S. before their 16th birthday and be 30 or younger, with no serious criminal record. About 800,000 people are now covered by the program.

Does DACA status mean a recipient is legally in the U.S.?

Not entirely. The program doesn’t give legal status, like a green card. Instead, it amounts to a temporary promise to not deport someone, so long as they don’t get in trouble. It does provide a permit so people can work legally. Most of the grants were for two years.

Are all of these people now subject to immediate deportation?

No. Immigration authorities will honor everyone’s DACA status until current permits expire. The delay is designed to give Congress time to pass a law that would resolve their status.

If Congress does not act, people will lose their protected status as their permits run out, roughly 7,000 per week. Even then, immigration authorities say the Dreamers won’t be priorities for deportation — but there are no guarantees.

What happens to people who are due to lose their DACA protections soon?

People whose permits are set to expire between now and March 5 have a window in which to apply for renewal if they haven’t already done so.

The deadline is Oct. 5., U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says. That means a surge in applications is coming: The agency says that 201,000 permits are set to expire between now and the end of this year, and only about 55,000 of them already have their applications in.

I already applied for DACA (or a renewal) but I haven’t gotten approved. What happens to my application?

The agency will process every application that arrived by Tuesday. As of last month, there were 106,341 cases in the pipeline, including more than 34,000 who were applying for a first-time entry into the program.

What happens to people who are eligible for DACA but haven’t already applied for the program?

It’s too late. No new applications are being considered.

What about people who are already in DACA, but whose terms expire after March 5?

That depends. If they were smart or lucky enough to put in a renewal application early, they can still get renewals. About 7,200 people whose time expires in 2018 have applications in the pipeline; the agency couldn’t immediately say how many are outside the March 5 window.

There are 275,000 DACA recipients whose term expires in 2019; eight of those have already applied for a renewal.

If they’re approved, they will get two years from the date the new one is granted, not two years tacked on to their original time.

The rest are out of luck and can no longer apply.

In order to get approved for DACA, applicants had to provide detailed information, including their addresses and dates of birth. What happens to that information now?

The data will stay on file with U.S. immigration authorities. Some applicants fear the information will be used to target them, but immigration authorities say the information that people provided under DACA won’t be transferred to enforcement agents unless the person commits a crime or proves to be a national security risk.

Without action from Congress, how quickly will people lose their protections under the program?

After March 5, there will be more than 1,000 people expiring out of the program every day, according to an estimate by David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization based in Washington that favors fewer restrictions on immigration.

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UPDATES:

12:55 p.m.: This article has been updated with more details about DACA.

This story was originally published at 12:40 p.m.

An earlier version of this article said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would process DACA renewal applications that arrived by Wednesday. The deadline was Tuesday.

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