Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) to be Phased Out

Written by: Ashik R. Jahan, Esq.

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), based on the Administration’s decision to terminate DACA, announced new measures regarding the DACA program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said, “I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.” In a lengthy written statement, President Trump said: “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”

But what does this mean? For starters, DHS will no longer process new applications under DACA as of Tuesday, September 5, 2017, and has now formally rescinded the Obama administration policy, which was implemented by President Obama due to Congress’ failure to act on immigration reform. As a brief history, Congress previously failed to act on the “Dream Act – Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” since its initial introduction to the Senate on August 1, 2001, by United States Senators Dick Durbin (Democratic Party) and Orrin Hatch (Republican Party). The Act has since been reintroduced several times but failed to pass each time.

The good news (if any) is that no current beneficiaries will have their status revoked before it expires, and any applications received before Tuesday, September 5, 2017, will be processed. Therefore, no current beneficiaries should be adversely impacted before March 5, 2018. However, what happens after that date is anyone’s guess. The DHS has indicated that by winding down the program in an “orderly fashion” in the near-term, the hope is that Congress will have sufficient time to deliver an appropriate legislative solution. This six month window for Congress to act gives the possibility of hope, as President Trump tweeted out: “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”. Yet, absent a legislative fix, which Congress has had the opportunity to effectuate since 2001, it remains possible that all DACA recipients (often called “Dreamers”) could be issued a Notice to Appear before an Immigration Judge sometime after March 5, 2018, which is the first step in removal proceedings (deportation).

Given the legislative branch’s propensity to “kick the can,’ another possibility is that despite their threats to the contrary, no action could be taken by DHS against Dreamers. Fortunately, the administration has also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose DACA status expires in the next six months. Specifically, a senior DHS official said that Dreamers with work permits that expire by March 5, 2018, will be allowed to apply for a two-year renewal. The work permit renewal application must be submitted by October, 5, 2018, the official said.

Odds are that this contentious issue, and the creation of a deadline for Congress to act, is just the beginning of a debate that will undoubtedly ensue over the next several months on the DACA program and its closure, leaving the fate of an estimated 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the US as children, up in the air. Fortunately, there is already widespread consensus among the business and education community, who have joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the DACA program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many Dreamers have never known another home than the US. Hopefully, bipartisan support and consensus will be reached very quickly.

In the end, DACA was supposed to help Dreamers avoid living in fear of deportation in the only country they called home. Today’s announcement means that the next six months will leave most of them with anxiety-filled nightmares about their future in the US.

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