Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
June 16, 2017
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration reiterated that it would continue, at least for now, an Obama-era program that allows people brought to the U.S. illegally as children a reprieve from deportation and the chance to work legally.
This has been the policy since President Donald Trump took office, and it was made official in a February memorandum implementing one of the president’s executive orders on immigration. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has repeatedly told Congress and others that the new administration is retaining the so-called Dreamers program, and the administration has approved tens of thousands of new applications and renewals.
Mr. Kelly said as much in a memorandum on a related subject issued late Thursday. “The June 15, 2012, memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect,” he wrote.
Still, administration officials said they could still change their minds. “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.
The Kelly memo, signed Thursday, primarily concerns a related program that Mr. Obama tried to create but that never took effect: one that would offer the same protections from deportation for an estimated several million parents of children who are citizens or lawful permanent residents. That program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, known as DAPA, was widely opposed by Republicans. Twenty-six states sued to stop it, and the initiative was blocked by the courts.
There was never any indication that Mr. Trump might try to revive DAPA. But the Thursday memo made official that he was rescinding the Obama memorandum that created it. “There is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy,” Mr. Kelly wrote.
The program was put on hold by a federal appeals court, and the Supreme Court then deadlocked 4-4 over the matter, ruling at a time when there was a vacancy on the nine-member court. That meant the lower court ruling blocking it stood. Immigration advocates had hoped that if Democrat Hillary Clinton was elected president, she would appoint a ninth justice who would favor the program.
Opponents of the program welcomed this week’s official action.
“This was a deeply irresponsible policy from the start,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.). “It essentially said to illegal immigrants that we wouldn’t enforce our laws and encouraged them to risk their lives in coming to the United States.…I’m glad to see Secretary Kelly take it off the books.”
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump promised to end both programs, calling them unconstitutional, but after being elected, he signaled that he wanted to keep DACA, and DHS has made it clear the program was still in operation.
From January to March of this year, the agency granted 17,275 new DACA applications and 107,524 renewals, according to statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, which administers the program. Since the program began, nearly 800,000 people have been granted the protective status.
There have been a handful of arrests of people enrolled in or eligible for DACA. The administration has typically said those people lost their status or became deportation priorities because of a criminal conviction, though the facts of some of these cases are in dispute.
Supporters of a wider immigration overhaul that would give undocumented immigrants a permanent legal status were pleased by the reaffirmation of the program but said they hoped more would be done.
“It is of some comfort that the [DACA] program, initiated five years ago, remains in place, but the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship has never been more urgent,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D., Va.).
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