The Trump administration on Tuesday formally announced the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was put into place under the Obama administration and provides deportation protection to undocumented immigrants – also known as "DREAMers" – who were brought to the country as young children.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday morning following multiple reports over the weekend that President Donald Trump would choose to rescind the program. According to Sessions, the Department of Homeland Security will initiate a six-month wind down process, giving Congress time to act on immigration reform if it chooses to do so. As part of the phasing out of the program, new applications will not be accepted, but DREAMers whose two-year work permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be able to apply for a renewal as long as they do so by Oct. 5, according to The Washington Post.
Leading up to the decision, several Republican lawmakers – including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) – urged Trump not to repeal the program, and rather wait until Congress has an alternate solution ready to put in its place.
In his speech on Tuesday, Sessions said the Obama administration overstepped its authority in implementing DACA in the first place, after Congress had rejected similar proposals and that the move was an "unconstitutional exercise of authority" by the administration.
"No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law," Sessions said. "Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed."
In the months since Trump's inauguration, students, advocates, and other stakeholders have been anxiously awaiting confirmation on whether the program would stay in place. For a while, it was extremely unclear as to whether the administration would keep DACA 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.
But the situation was further complicated back in June, when the Trump administration formally ended DACA's sister program, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The administration said at the time that DACA would remain in place for the time being, but that there had been "no final determination" on the future of DACA.
What's more, the attorneys general from 10 states in June urged the Trump administration to phase out DACA by September 5, at which point they would take legal action to pursue its repeal.
Sessions went on to say on Tuesday that the DACA program is "vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges" that came up during the legal challenge to DAPA and that knowledge contributed to the administration's deliberations on whether to repeal DACA.
"Many [Dreamers] have little to no recollection of their place of origin and have been integrated into this country as much as natural born citizens. In short, they learn in our schools, defend our freedoms and country, and become productive members of society—all in the face of significant hurdles," said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. "Ending this program and penalizing individuals who were brought here through no choice of their own is unspeakably cruel and out-of-step with the foundational ideas and principles of this country. We call on the administration to uphold this program and for lawmakers to swiftly pass legislation that at a minimum provides deportation protections for this vulnerable population."
Not long before the administration's announcement, NASFAA signed on to a letter with more than two dozen other higher education organizations urging Trump not to repeal DACA.
"You have said on several occasions that your administration would seek to help Dreamers because, as you rightly noted, they are ‘incredible kids,'" the letter said. "The high-achieving young people in DACA contribute in many ways to our nation. Preserving their status while your administration and Congress work on a permanent solution is the humane way to respond to the situation these innocent young people are facing. Children brought to the United States at a young age did not have a choice in the matter. It remains in America's best interest to enable them to use their knowledge, skills and energy to make the strongest possible contribution to our country."
Higher education community leaders, including NASFAA, in July intensified calls for Congress to support legislation that would protect undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children – also known as "DREAMers" – as their status in America continued to be called into question.
NASFAA joined more than 30 other organizations in submitting a letter to lawmakers expressing support for the Dream Act of 2017, which was recently introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The legislation would grant permanent legal status to individuals who arrived in the country before they were 18.
The attorneys general who signed on to the June letter pressing for DACA's repeal – from Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kansas – said that if the administration did not phase out the program by that date and order that it would not renew or issue any new DACA permits in the future, they would challenge the issue in court. Texas was among a group of states that took legal action to successfully prevent DAPA from going into effect.
The courts determined that the Obama administration did not have "the unilateral power" to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and give them work authorization. In the new letter, the states claimed the same legal reasoning should be used in determining whether the DACA program is unlawful.
About one month later, 20 state attorneys general wrote a letter to President Donald Trump in response, saying DACA has been "a boon to the communities, universities, and employers with which these Dreamers are connected, and for the American economy as a whole."
Following Tuesday's announcement, the same group of state attorneys general, as well as several Democratic lawmakers, denounced Trump's decision.
"Today, the president let down future teachers, doctors, first responders, and military members by dismantling the DACA program," said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. "The incredible kids who contribute to this great country and benefit from DACA deserve to feel safe with their families. My fellow Democratic Attorneys General and I will continue to hold firm in our dedication to enforcing the rule of law and to the young people that make this nation great."
Meanwhile, Speaker Ryan appeared to cautiously approve of Trump's decision to wind down the program with a window of time for Congress to act.
"Congress writes laws, not the president, and ending this program fulfills a promise that President Trump made to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branches," Ryan said in a statement. "But now there is more to do, and the president has called on Congress to act."
"At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it's the only country they know," Ryan continued. "Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. 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."
Publication Date: 9/5/2017