The Obama administration program that is shielding nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation in Georgia and across the nation and allowing them to work legally in America will be canceled in six months, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday.
By not immediately scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Trump administration is giving Congress time to come up with “legislative solutions” for Dreamers, the nickname given to immigrants who were brought here as children without authorization.
The Trump administration reached its decision after attorneys general from 10 states – including three of Georgia’s neighbors, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee – threatened to sue in federal court to stop DACA unless the president took action to phase it out by Tuesday.
The government added that it would not revoke DACA benefits for those who have them now. But any new DACA applications filed after Tuesday will be rejected. The government, however, will consider renewal applications that are received by Tuesday as well as requests from current DACA recipients whose benefits will expire by March 5 of next year, provided those applications are received by Oct. 5 of this year.
“This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens,” Sessions told reporters in Washington.
“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
Started in 2012, DACA grants renewable two-year work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants who came here before they turned 16, who are attending school here and who have no felony convictions. As of March 31, federal records show, 24,135 people in Georgia have been approved for the program. Nationwide, that number is 787,580.
The program will be phased out under the Trump administration’s plans. From Augusts through December of this year, 201,678 people are set to have their DACA benefits expire. Of them, 55,258 have pending requests for renewals. Next year, 275,344 people will see their DACA status expire. And of them, 7,271 have submitted requests for renewal. And in 2019, the DACA benefits for 321,920 people will run out. Of them, eight have asked for renewals.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, meanwhile, is not planning to change who it is targeting for deportation, a senior Homeland Security official told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.
“Our enforcement posture has not changed,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak for attribution. “We still are prioritizing criminal aliens, illegal reentrants -- in other words persons who have been previously removed and who have illegally reentered the country -- and those persons with outstanding orders of removal.”
“There is no plan at this time to target persons outside of those parameters.”
Hundreds of immigrant rights activists marched through downtown Atlanta Monday in support of DACA, calling for the program to be persevered and for federal lawmakers to pass legislation protecting Dreamers.