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?