The Trump administration announced today that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be phased out over the course of six months. DACA, an executive action signed by former President Barack Obama, provides legal protections to approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
In a statement, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said the administration’s decision was taken after the Department of Justice, “carefully evaluated the program’s constitutionality and determined it conflicts with our existing immigration laws.”
In her statement, Duke said no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, so Congress will have time to “deliver on appropriate legislative solutions.” However, no new initial requests or associated applications filed henceforth will be acted upon. According to an FAQ released by the Department of Homeland Security, however, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will make decisions on a case-by-case basis for properly filed pending DACA renewal requests from current beneficiaries that have been accepted as of Sept. 5, 2017, and from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 that have been accepted as of Oct. 5, 2017.
The DACA program has been controversial from its inception in 2012. It was written to protect undocumented immigrants under the age of 16 who were brought into the country as children and have lived in the United States since June 15, 2007. Those protected by the program could obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in college and obtain jobs. The program does not provide a path to become a legal citizen or permanent resident, but applicants could defer deportation for two years, before applying for renewal.
The administration announced their decision today after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions received a letter from 10 state attorney generals in June asserting that the DACA program was unlawful. The letter noted that if DHS did not rescind the June 2012 DACA memo by Sept. 5, the states would seek to amend the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents lawsuit to include a challenge to DACA. The DAPA program, which President Obama announced in 2014, was blocked from going forward in February 2015 by temporary injunction, and in June 2017, the Trump administration announced it would not implement the program.
In a letter to Acting Secretary Duke, Attorney General Sessions stated that DACA “was effectuated by the previous administration through executive action, without proper statutory authority and with no established end-date, after Congress’ repeated rejection of proposed legislation that would have accomplished a similar result. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.” The letter further stated that because DACA “has the same legal and constitutional defects that the courts recognized as to DAPA, it is likely that potentially imminent litigation would yield similar results with respect to DACA.”
If you have any questions on this announcement, please give me a call.
Brad Hendrick leads the immigration law practice at Caplan and Earnest LLC. He may be reached at [email protected] or 303-443-8010.