As expected, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this morning that DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from the threat of deportation, is being phased out. Sessions said the program “was inconsistent with the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children — a group sometimes called the “Dreamers” — to obtain government ID (such as drivers licenses) and lawfully work, as long as they have clean criminal records and have obtained a high school diploma or GED, or are working towards one. There are an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 DACA recipients in Arkansas, and about 800,000 nationwide, many of them with families of their own. (It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of others are eligible for DACA but have not applied for the program.)
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Under the program as established by President Obama in 2012, DACA protections must be renewed on a two-year basis. After today, no new DACA applications will be accepted, the Department of Homeland Security said. Those DACA recipients whose card was set to expire before March 5, 2018, will be given a one-month window for a final renewal. Those recipients whose protections were set to expire after that date will not get to renew. They’ll simply lose their ability to work, their ability to legally drive and their guarantee of security from deportation. They’ll be pushed into the shadows. (More details here, from Vox’s Dara Lind.)
Sessions said today that DACA was a constitutional overreach by the executive branch under Obama and undermined congressional authority to create immigration law. He said the six-month phase-out window gives Congress time to create a legislative alternative to DACA, “should it so choose.” President Trump signaled this morning that he wants Congress to act on the issue:
Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement after Sessions’ announcement this morning:
However well-intentioned, President Obama’s DACA program was a clear abuse of executive authority, an attempt to create law out of thin air. Just as the courts have already struck down similar Obama policy, this was never a viable long-term solution to this challenge. Congress writes laws, not the president, and ending this program fulfills a promise that President Trump made to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branches. But now there is more to do, and the president has called on Congress to act. The president’s announcement does not revoke permits immediately, and it is important that those affected have clarity on how this interim period will be carried out. At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know. Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.