Yesterday, the Trump administration formally announced the end to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program that has protected from deportation an estimated 800,000 young documented immigrations brought to the United States as children. Despite having said that he intended to deal with “heart and compassion” when it came to DACA recipients, Trump’s decision to rescind the order, established via Executive Action under President Obama, has left immigrant communities, immigrant advocates, immigration lawyers, democrats, businesses, churches, and educational institutions in a state of demoralizing shock. What does this mean and what will be the consequences? Will this mean that 800,000 individuals will automatically be deported? The goal of this blog is to shed light on these questions but we certainly invite all DACA recipients to contact our office to discuss their personal cases in order to receive the best individualized answers regarding how they should best protect themselves legally.
First and foremost, the termination of DACA means that the Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program. Administration officials made it clear that no one’s DACA status will be revoked before it expires and any applications already received by Tuesday will indeed be processed. The next important thing to note is that DACA recipients will start losing their status beginning on March 5, 2018. In terms of potential deportation, the administration noted that ICE officers in the field who encounter DACA recipients once out of status will make a case-by-case determination as to whether to arrest that individual and process them for deportation. Importantly, the majority of DACA recipients have never been in removal proceedings or have outstanding deport orders. Initiating deportation orders for an approximate half million individuals would cause an extreme backlog in the immigration court system. At present, there are over 650,000 cases pending and a 3-4 year wait to have a final hearing before an immigration judge, without adding the DACA individuals to the already overtaxed docket.
Hopefuls are already wondering if there could actually be a silver lining to the DACA termination. After his agencies and attorney general announced the decision, President Donald Trump urged Congress to come up with a solution. Some say that this may suggest the possibility of an improved outcome because, at its core, DACA was never more than a sort of “stop-gap” or bureaucratic delay that never promised formalized enduring legal status in this country or rights of citizenship. As such, time will tell if Congress will finally be able to pass more comprehensive legislative reform aimed at providing more permanent protections and curative solutions.