U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that officials will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, fulfilling a promise President Donald Trump made during the race to the White House to end the program.
Here are five things to know about DACA and the decision to end the program:
What is DACA?
The DACA program was an administrative program created by an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama and aimed to protect people who were brought into the United States illegally when they were children from deportation, on a temporary basis. Immigrants were allowed to apply for two year deferrals, under certain stipulations. The people who fell under the DACA program, known as Dreamers, had to have finished high school or gotten a GED certification, have been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school. Young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children but who have criminal records were barred from the program.
Why was the program created?
Obama announced the program in June 2012 after legislators stalled on passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly known as the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act has appeared before legislators in various forms over the last decade or so, but it has never gotten far. The DREAM Act failed to garner enough support to move forward in the U.S. Senate in 2011 and one year later, DACA was created.
"I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away," Obama said in June 2012. "In the absence of any immigration action from Congress to fix our broken immigration system, what we’ve tried to do is focus our immigration enforcement resources in the right places.”
Why was the program ended?
Sessions echoed years-old criticism of Obama’s executive order on Tuesday when he called the former president’s order “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
“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 said.
“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.”
What does the decision mean for current Dreamers?
In a memorandum released Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that it would reject all new applications for the DACA program. Pending applications, both to join the program and to renew a person’s status in the program, will still be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Applications to renew a person’s DACA status will be accepted until Oct. 5. Benefits are expected to expire for DACA participants on March 5, 2018, at the latest.
Officials do not plan to rescind the deferrals already granted through DACA.
What has the response been from officials?
Obama said the decision to end DACA was politically motivated in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.
“Ultimately, this is about basic decency,” he said. “This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, two state attorneys general announced that they planned to file suit against the Trump administration if it decided to end DACA.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said on Monday that he planned to file suit “to halt this cruel and illegal policy and defend DACA recipients.”
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement that “Dreamers are Americans in every way.”
“They played by the rules,” he said. “They pay their taxes. And they’ve earned the right to stay in the only home they have ever known.”
Legislators from both sides of the aisle vowed to work toward the passage of the DREAM Act.
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