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EXPLAINER: What Is DACA?

EXPLAINER: What is DACA?

 

Protesters rally outside Trump Tower in New York City on Sept. 5 after President Donald Trump’s administration announced the DACA program for young undocumented immigrants will end. (Courtesy photo: Harrie van Veen via Creative Commons)

By Olivia Olander
GSS Correspondent

The status of some 790,000 young people is in jeopardy due to President Donald Trump’s move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA was created by former President Barack Obama to give undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children the chance to get a work permit or study in America. Now, it may be repealed in six months.

What is DACA?

DACA is an often-used acronym for the 2012 executive order that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to get work permits and driver’s licenses, as well as temporarily protect them from deportation. It does not provide permanent citizenship, but was intended to “lift the shadow of deportation from these young people,” Obama said at the time. It was also seen as a temporary version of the DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would grant permanent residency to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The DREAM Act has been introduced in the Senate in several different iterations since it was created in 2001, but has never been passed.

Who’s protected?

Undocumented immigrants, often referred to as “Dreamers,” were eligible for DACA if they were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and met certain other requirements. More than a million individuals were eligible for these benefits, according to a 2014 Pew study, and over 78 percent of those people applied. DACA stopped accepting new applications earlier this month, but is accepting renewed applications until Oct. 5 “from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018,” according to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

What is Trump doing about DACA?

Estimates for public support of DACA range wildly — from 45 to 78 percent, according to Politifact — and Trump himself has claimed support to be as high as 92 percent. However, the Trump administration announced steps to phase out DACA Sept. 5. The news came via Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general and an opponent of legislation to protect undocumented immigrants. Sessions announced a six-month window for Congress to revise or replace the act, after which Dreamers may be eligible for deportation.

Whether they will actually be deported after that point is unclear. Trump said former DACA recipients will not be “enforcement priorities,” and the Department of Homeland Security said it has “no plans” to use the information collected through DACA applications as a way to find and deport people, The Washington Post reported.

Trump previously stated that he wants a solution for Dreamers that will make them “happy and proud,” and even seemed to tweet his support for protecting them on Sept. 14.

However, by rescinding the executive order, Trump reiterated his “America first” call to action, and his desire for stricter immigration laws. Sessions also voiced support for enforcement of immigration laws.

Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers and prevents human suffering,” Sessions said.

What happens now?

According to the Trump administration, Congress now has until March to either come up with a new version of DACA or let it expire. CNN reported that if DACA ends completely, those who were formerly protected would then be up for deportation like any other undocumented immigrant. Some members of Congress are once again pushing for the passage of the DREAM Act, even if it means accepting tighter border security measures. Other options involve keeping various aspects of DACA with or without a path to citizenship.

On Sept. 14, just days after initially threatening to repeal DACA, Trump met with Democratic leaders to negotiate a potential new immigration policy. After the meeting, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said they made a deal with Trump protecting Dreamers as part of a larger agreement that included enhanced border security, but this has not been confirmed by Trump.

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