President Donald Trump followed through on a campaign promise Tuesday to end an amnesty program for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, albeit in a way that allows beneficiaries to continue using the program for a period and gives Congress a chance to pass a legislative fix.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was started by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect illegal immigrants that arrived as minors. It protects roughly 800,000 illegal immigrants, many of whom are in their 30s. President Trump vowed to end the program immediately on the campaign trial, but wavered before his hand was forced by a litigation threat from several Republican state attorneys general.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement in a Tuesday press briefing and said that he had determined that the program was unconstitutional.
President Trump tweeted Tuesday ahead of Sessions’ announcement, “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!” This suggests Trump is going along with the fear of many immigration hawks and supporting a legislative amnesty for the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants protected by DACA. (RELATED: Immigration Hawks Worry Congress Will Pass Amnesty To Save ‘Dreamers’)
“Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first. We are facing the symptom of a larger problem, illegal immigration, along with the many other chronic immigration problems Washington has left unsolved. We must reform our green card system, which now favors low-skilled immigration and puts immense strain on U.S. taxpayers,” Trump said in a statement following Sessions’ announcement.
Congress could potentially pass an amnesty for DACA recipients along with the RAISE Act, which substantially lowers legal immigration and is supported by the White House.
The slow rescinding of DACA will also mean that DACA beneficiaries will be able to keep their status on a rolling basis. This will allow some illegal immigrants to be protected from deportation and keep their work permits all the way into 2019.
“With the measures the Department is putting in place today, no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, nearly six months from now, so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions. However, I want to be clear that no new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on,” Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Duke said in a statement.
DACA beneficiaries whose status expires between now and March 5 can apply for renewal by October 5. The status lasts for two years. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also review all pending applications and renewals.
“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act,” Trump said in his statement.
He continued on to say: “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too. Being in government means setting priorities. Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families.”