DACA is Ending

By Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza

As anticipated, the Trump Administration, through Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today the end of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (commonly known as “DACA”) program with a six-month delay for enactment.  The delay is to allow Congress to enact legislation that will address the immigration status of those currently in the DACA program.  Whether Congress will take any steps in this regard and, if so, what steps they will be are questions to which no one has answers right now.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Memo with some guidelines as to what will happen in the immediate future.

Previously issued EADs and DACA grants will remain valid for their full validity period.

Pending (those already filed by September 5, 2017) initial requests for DACA and related EADs will be adjudicated.

Initial applications not filed by today will not be accepted after today.

Pending DACA renewals will be adjudicated.

Not-yet-filed DACA renewals will be accepted for filing until October 5, 2017.  Renewals can only be filed for those whose DACA grant will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018.  No one knows how long the renewals will be granted for.

No new DACA-based advance parole applications will be approved.  All pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed and the filing fees will be refunded.

Previously approved advance paroles will be generally honored though DHS retains the authority to deny admission and/or revoke or terminate parole where it deems appropriate.

What will happen to those who were granted DACA after the program officially ends, assuming Congress does not pass something to replace it is a question without an answer at this time.  Given the uncertainty of this situation, DACA recipients who are considering traveling outside the United States on previously-granted advance parole are advised to consult an immigration lawyer before actually leaving the country.

DACA was designed to help so-called “Dreamers,” a term used to refer to an undocumented immigrant brought to the U.S. at a young age.  It was President Obama’s signature immigration accomplishment.  Applicants for DACA were “coming out of the shadows.”  They were voluntarily disclosing their full name and home address, their social security number and employment history, etc.  In short, they were proving the U.S. government with all of the information they needed to more easily deport them from the U.S.

They provided this personal information to prove they met all of DACA’s requirements, including arriving in the U.S. before they turned 16-years-old, being a high school graduate or currently enrolled in school, the lack of a significant criminal history, etc.  And they were only providing this information after being told by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service that their personal information would not be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responsible for deporting people from the U.S. A grant of DACA meant that beneficiaries would receive protected status and work authorization for two years.  It was renewable every two years and was considered by many to be life-changing.

Ending DACA was one of President Trump’s campaign promises. However, he has also said various things over the last several months that indicated he was going to continue DACA. These comments included saying that “we love the Dreamers” and “we are going to deal with DACA with heart.”  Whether ending DACA was a decision made with “heart” is debatable, but what is clear is that President Trump is saying that it is the job of Congress to pass immigration legislation rather then the President, in this case President Obama.  DACA will officially continue for 6 months, thereby providing Congress an opportunity to enact a suitable replacement.

In the last few days and weeks there has been bilateral support for continuing DACA due to the fact that these children were brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was amongst the most high-profile Republicans advocating for the continuance of DACA.  However, there are also many Republicans who believe that President Obama was wrong to enact the program through executive action, rather than allowing Congress to pass legislation dealing with the issue.

There are now close to a million people more confused than ever about their immigration status.  They do not know whether they will be deported or granted immigration benefits by Congress.  Because of this uncertainty, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney to find out if any other options are available.