The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Thursday night announced it would formally put an end to the Obama-era program intended to protect the undocumented parents of citizens or legal residents from deportation. But DHS said in the same memo – in a reversal of President Donald Trump’s previous claims on the campaign trail – that it will continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The federal agency announced it would end the parent-focused program, formally known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), while advocates were celebrating the fifth anniversary of DACA, and calling for more comprehensive immigration reform. While DACA has been available to some undocumented immigrants for several years, the DAPA program never took effect – it was blocked by a federal appeals court, and the Supreme Court came to a 4-4 split decision on a challenge to that ruling.
Former President Barack Obama took executive action in 2012 to create DACA, which allows certain undocumented immigrants to receive renewable two-year work permits and exemption from deportation, so long as they entered the United States before their 16th birthday, and before June 2007. While the program confers non-immigrant legal status, it does not provide a path to citizenship. The program was expanded in 2014 to include undocumented immigrants who entered the country before 2010, eliminate the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 years old, and lengthen the renewable deferral period to two years.
“DACA recipients who were issued three-year extensions before the district court’s injunction will not be affected, and will be eligible to seek a two-year extension upon their expiration,” according to guidance from DHS. “No work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”
For individuals with DACA status, particularly the so-called “DREAMers” who remained in the country to attend college, not much will change moving forward in the short term.
“It’s just restating the status quo,” said Angela Adams, managing attorney/owner at Adams Immigration Law, LLC, in Carmel, IN. “I think it's more of a reassurance that nothing bad will happen and the program will remain intact.”
Leading up to and in the weeks following Trump’s inauguration, it was extremely unclear as to whether the administration would keep the program in place. While Trump had a strong stance on immigration policy during the presidential campaign – and at one point vowed to “immediately terminate” DACA – he has since softened his tone as it relates to those with DACA status.
Although the program remains in place for now, some administration officials signaled said this might not be the final decision.
“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,” said Jonathan Hoffman, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary for public affairs, in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, expressed that concern in a statement, saying that while DACA remains in place for now, the administration’s “enforcement actions and policy decisions continue to create fear and anxiety in immigrant communities.”
“Their announcement to keep DACA, while revoking DAPA and deporting family members is deceitful and is another effort to keep immigrant families feeling uncomfortable about their place in America,” she said. “Instead of deporting as many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants as possible and breaking apart millions of families, we should change the law to deal fairly with those people who are here now with longstanding ties to our country.”
That lingering uncertainty means advocates will likely press for a more lasting change, as DACA recipients still can face many hurdles, particularly related to paying for and attending college. Currently students with DACA status are ineligible to receive federal financial aid for college. However, 20 states offer in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and another five states offer state financial aid to undocumented immigrants.
Following Thursday's guidance, a DHS spokesperson on Friday evening issued a statement explaining that it "should not be interpreted as bearing any relevance on the long-term future of that program" and was only intended to clarify that DACA would not be canceled immediately.
“It underscores the need for Congress to do something that has some meaningful, permanent solution for these kids,” Adams said. “DACA isn’t a path to citizenship, or permanent residency, so they’re still in limbo.”
Publication Date: 6/19/2017