US News & World Report
By Susan Milligan
June 16, 2017
The Trump administration is continuing an Obama-era program allowing so-called “dreamers,” young people whose parents brought them to the United States illegally, to stay and work here, handing a big victory to immigration activists who have been battling with the new president on immigrant travel and refugee matters.
The decision, a one-line mention at the bottom of a memo the Department of Homeland Security released Thursday night, is also a reversal of a campaign promise of Donald Trump, who pledged as a candidate to “immediately terminate” protections offered by program.
The memo details the administration’s decision to abandon the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, program, which protected the parents of legal residents and U.S. citizens from deportation. That program has never been in full effect, as it was enjoined by the courts, and the Homeland Security’s decision merely formalizes what has been ongoing policy. At the end of the memo, however, the administration offered a notice that may be less-palatable to Trump’s political base: “The June 15, 2012 memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”
DACA has far more public sympathy, since it applies to people who were brought to the United States as young children and have no real ties to their countries of birth. Some do not even have the language skills needed to relocate in their home countries, if they are deported.
Former President Barack Obama issued DACA five years ago Thursday. It does not make such undocumented immigrants citizens, but provides administrative relief from the fear of deportation and allows eligible young people to work legally for two years. It applies to those who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and have lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007. Eligible beneficiaries of the discretionary policy must be currently studying or be a high school or military graduate, and have clean criminal records.
Obama’s DAPA program also extended the legal work authorization from two years to three years for DACA beneficiaries. That provision is rescinded, according to the DHS memo, meaning young eligible undocumented immigrant may only work legally for two years before having to apply for permission again.
Immigration activists are disappointed at the formal rescission of DAPA, and while they say they are not surprised by the DACA statement, since Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly previously indicated in congressional testimony that dreamers would not be a target, they are wary.
The DHS memo “simply reiterates the status quo,” Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, said in a statement. “DACA remains in place – for now – but it’s clear that they are using it as cover to deport everyone else. What’s more, this Administration has been cynically wielding its enforcement authorities over certain DACA recipients. This is a classic move used by abusers to keep their targets – in this case DACA recipients – feeling vulnerable and ‘in check.’
FILE – In this March 31, 2017, file photo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks about crime to local, state and federal law enforcement officials in St. Louis. Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has added a surprising name to the witness list for his upcoming criminal contempt-of-court trial. He is seeking the testimony of Sessions, whose agency is prosecuting Arpaio for defying a judge’s order to stop his immigration patrols. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
America’s Voice and other pro-immigrant advocates believe the administration wants to focus its attention on other immigrant targets, including those convicted of minor crimes. While Trump has said he wanted to deport only criminal illegal immigrants, activists have noted that people with minor traffic violations have been targeted for detention and deportation, putting immigrants in fear.
On the fifth anniversary of the program Thursday, activists and DACA beneficiaries rallied in favor of continuing the policy.
“Protecting DACA is not only central for immigrants’ rights, it is deeply personal. DACA has provided members of my own family and community the opportunity to live fuller and better lives, no longer restrained by the threat of deportation,” Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. Praeli was a leader of the immigrant youth movement which pressed for relief for young immigrants.
“Here at the ACLU and so many other organizations, we are grounded in the fight to defend and advance the rights of immigrants of all walks of life. DACA is a lifeline and a reminder that this country still believes in all of our potential and welcomes our contributions,” Praeli said.
Later on Friday, the White House drew back on the DHS statement, saying the filing was meant to meet a court deadline on DAPA next week and was not intended to affect the program for young people. A senior White House official, speaking on background, did not say whether the White House was still reviewing the DACA program and added, “quite frankly, immigration is something that needs to be resolved by Congress.”
Updated on June 16, 2017: This story has been updated with comment from a White House official.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com