By Andrew Soboeiro
In an age of uncertainty for undocumented immigrants and their families, DACA offered a rare reprieve. The president’s recent decision to rescind the program is thus of grave significance to its more than 800,000 participants. While the ultimate results of this decision are not yet clear, DACA enrollees could face a renewed risk of deportation if Congress does not act quickly.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order issued in June of 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. It allowed certain undocumented immigrants to sign up for deferred action, meaning that Federal immigration authorities would not deport them for a specified period of time. To qualify, an immigrant had to have arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday and meet various residency, education, and background requirements.
For undocumented immigrants who qualified, signing up for DACA was a gamble, as it required them to reveal their existence to immigration authorities. The program did not confer permanent legal status, and because it was passed by executive order, it could be revoked with the stroke of a pen; Federal authorities would then be free to use the information DACA participants had submitted to round up and deport them. On the other hand, singing up for DACA offered immigrants new opportunities to further their careers, education, and other ambitions. Roughly 800,000 people thus chose to enroll.
During his campaign for president, Donald Trump pledged to rescind DACA as part of his hardline stance on immigration. Upon taking office, however, he did not immediately end the program. This may have been due to pressure from his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, as well as to the fact that nearly two-thirds of the public support the program. Nonetheless, Trump’s mere presence in the White House caused DACA enrollment to drop, as fewer immigrants considered signing up a smart gamble.
Trump’s decision to end DACA was likely due to a threat from eleven state attorneys general, who claimed they would challenge it in court if he left it in place. The specific order does not abolish the entire program immediately, but continues to protect current enrollees for the next six months. The president has not specified what will happen after this point, but implied in a tweet that he expects Congress to take action.
DACA enjoyed broad support among both business leaders and the general public, so Congress has a strong incentive to protect its participants permanently. There are probably enough Senators and Representatives in favor to pass such a law if it comes to a vote, but it is not clear whether congressional leaders will allow a vote on it, particularly with so many other items on their agenda. For now, the future of DACA participants is like that of all other undocumented immigrants: uncertain.
Hannah Vigoda is a licensed immigration lawyer with detailed knowledge of DACA and all other immigration policies. For more information or to request legal assistance, contact Vigoda Law Firm today at 919-307-7817.