Ever since Donald Trump’s election, one major question has hung over the immigrant community. What would the new president do about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that offered young undocumented people who cleared a host of hurdles short-term reprieves from deportation? Late Thursday night, immigrants got their answer.
The Trump administration will leave the program untouched, enabling DACA recipients to breathe a sigh of relief. But, announced Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the Trump administration will revoke DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Americans, President Obama’s attempt to provide administrative relief for the parents of DREAMers and other groups of undocumented immigrants.
Throughout his campaign, Trump made statements that seem designed to rattle immigrants. He promised to immediately revoke DACA and DAPA in a 10-point immigration plan. (The document is no longer available on Trump’s website.) Weeks before the election, Trump released a Contract with the American Voter, his version of a first 100 days plan, in which he pledged to rescind DACA and DAPA, which he maintained were “unconstitutional executive action[s]…issued by President Obama.” Doing so would be his first immigration priority on his very first day in office, he said.
Almost immediately after November 8, though, Trump started backing off that threat.
“I want Dreamers for our children also,” Trump told Time magazine in December. We’re going to work something out.” Trump’s first day in office came and went with no action on DACA or DAPA, but during his first week in office Trump released executive orders directing the Department of Homeland Security to pursue all undocumented immigrants for removal from the United States, regardless of their background or criminal history, or lack thereof.
In February, Trump told reporters, “DACA is a very, very difficult subject, for me. Because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases. Some of the cases they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers too. But you have these absolutely incredible kids.… It’s a very tough subject. We’re going to deal with DACA with a lot of heart.”
In order to be eligible for DACA, young people have to have entered the United States before age 16 and still been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, the day that President Obama announced the creation of the program. That young person also must have graduated high school and—in direct conflict with Trump’s claims—never have been convicted of a felony or more than three misdemeanors. DACA-eligible young people must meet a host of other criteria: The must clear background checks, hand over their and their family’s personal information to the federal government, and pay hefty fees. It’s estimated that almost 800,000 young people have been able to win DACA, which offers protection from deportation and work authorization for two-year stints, which are renewable. As of today, DACA-eligible young people may continue to apply for and renew their participation in the program. Importantly, DACA does not in and of itself change a person’s immigration status. Should Trump decide to rescind DACA as well someday, the nearly 1 million young people who’ve been able to work, go to school, and move freely for the last five years would become, once again, as vulnerable to deportation as the rest of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.