New York Times
By Michael Shear and Vivian Yee
June 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Trump will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children, according to new memorandums issued by the administration on Thursday night.
But White House officials said on Friday morning that Mr. Trump had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them.
The Department of Homeland Security announced that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them with work permits so they can find legal employment.
A fact sheet posted on the department’s website says that immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “will continue to be eligible” to renew every two years, and notes that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”
A news release from the department said flatly that “the June 15, 2012, memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”
But officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security said on Friday morning that those statements were intended only to clarify that immigrants enrolled in the DACA program would not immediately be affected by a separate action officially ending a similar program for undocumented immigrants whose children are citizens or legal permanent residents.
“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, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the department. He added that John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”
Immigration rights activists, who have fiercely battled Mr. Trump’s travel ban and increased enforcement of other immigration laws, initially hailed the announcement, calling it a surprising turn of events from Mr. Trump.
“This is a big victory for Dreamers amid months of draconian and meanspirited immigration enforcement policy,” said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer. “The preservation of DACA is a tribute to the strength of the Dreamer movement.”
But after the White House clarified its intent, activists expressed regret. Mr. Leopold said in a second statement that “it’s no surprise that Trump would quickly walk back the preservation of DACA.” He added that the administration was trying to “cynically pit 800,000 Dreamers against the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.”
Cecilia Muñoz, who led President Barack Obama’s domestic policy council and oversaw immigration policy for the White House, said, “It is unfortunate that their status is still temporary, and their peace of mind not complete.”
A decision to maintain the DACA program would be a reversal from Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant language during the campaign and would disappoint some of the president’s most ardent supporters, who view the program started by Mr. Obama as an illegal grant of amnesty.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly agreed with that sentiment. At one rally last summer, Mr. Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the program, saying that Mr. Obama had “defied federal law and the Constitution.”
But once in office, Mr. Trump faced a new reality: the political risks of targeting for deportation a group of people who are viewed sympathetically by many Americans. In some cases, the immigrants did not know they were in the country illegally. Many attended American schools from the time they were in kindergarten.
Asked repeatedly about his intentions for the program since he took office, the president has hinted that he would not try to deport the Dreamers. But immigration activists had remained worried that the administration might still eliminate the program.
On Friday, young immigrants who have gained legal status through the program were eager for clarity.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Well, what’s the catch?’” said Carlos Robles-Shanahan, 27, a business consultant in Chicago who is waiting for his deferred action status to be renewed. “It felt like it sounds too good to be true. If they gave us that, what did they take away?”
Born in Mexico, Mr. Robles-Shanahan and his two siblings followed their parents to the Chicago area in 2004, when they were children. He and his brother were arrested and detained by immigration officials while traveling to Boston by train in 2010, but were given a temporary reprieve from deportation. Joining the deferred action program two years later, he said, allowed him to obtain financial aid from his college, teach for a year through a fellowship, earn a master’s degree in public policy, get a white-collar job and buy a house for his mother.
“DACA changed a ton of stuff for me and my brother, exponentially,” he said. “It was like a switch.”
Mr. Robles-Shanahan recently married a United States citizen and has begun the process of applying for a green card, but fears that his ability to work and live in the country will be jeopardized if his deferred action status is not renewed.
Confirmation that the Trump administration planned to preserve the program would have given young immigrants some certainty that they could apply for deferred action or renew their status, said Rigo Rivera, 27, who crossed the Mexican border when he was 9 to join his parents in Alpharetta, Ga. Many have been afraid to apply for fear of putting their information in the hands of federal authorities.
“With Trump, we can expect anything. Tomorrow he can say that he wants to deport us,” he said. “I don’t know what to make of this, or what to believe.”
Mr. Rivera, a prep worker in a restaurant kitchen who also leads a group of young undocumented activists, received protected status in 2013, allowing him to obtain a driver’s license, a Social Security number and permission to work legally.
But he said he worried that he and other young immigrants in the program would not be protected from deportation even if Mr. Trump does not formally end DACA, because of several recent episodes in which people like him have been detained despite their participation in the program.
The announcement that the DACA program will continue for the time being, a decision that affects about 800,000 people in the United States, came as the administration formally ended Mr. Obama’s attempt to expand it to also cover the parents of Dreamers.
In 2015, Mr. Obama proposed an expansion of the program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could have shielded as many as five million people from deportation and provided work permits to them as well.
That program was never put in place because a Texas court blocked it at the request of a coalition of 26 state attorneys general. The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4 to 4, on a challenge to that ruling, but the decision by the Trump administration officially ends the litigation.
Correction: June 17, 2017
An earlier version of this article, using information from a Department of Homeland Security news release and a separate fact sheet, referred incorrectly to the status of the Obama-era immigration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The program is continuing for now; President Trump has not decided to keep it permanently, according to a clarification released by the administration. The headline repeated the error.
A version of this article appears in print on June 17, 2017, on Page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Their Long-Term Fate Is Unclear.
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