As of Wednesday, September 6, the Trump administration is no longer accepting new applications from young immigrants to be temporarily protected from deportation (and able to work legally) under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Does Donald Trump actually know that? It’s not clear.
The president, according to reports, is ambivalent about the fate of the program. In his statement about DACA, he said he had a “big heart” for the “DREAMers” (unauthorized immigrants who came to the US as children or young teens) who benefited from the program, and expressed hope that Congress would find a way to protect them permanently before DACA protections start expiring en masse on March 6 of next year.
In a press spray on Tuesday afternoon, he said “We love the DREAMers.” And then, Tuesday night, he tweeted this:
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
Trump is either lying about what his administration is doing right now, or simply doesn’t understand it.
While the administration has claimed March 5 as the “official” end to DACA, it’s actually starting to wind the program down right now.
A lot of DACA recipients — and would-be DACA recipients — will be vulnerable to deportation in the next six months
The Department of Homeland Security’s plan to wind down DACA is a lot more complicated than just the March 5 “deadline.” It’s not punting DACA for six months; it’s taking steps, over the next six months, to end the program on March 5.
For immigrants who were eligible for DACA, but hadn’t applied — or who were under 15 years old (the minimum age to apply for DACA), but would have qualified when they turned 15 — DACA is essentially already over. The government isn’t accepting any applications for initial protection under DACA that it received after September 5.
Immigrants who are currently protected by DACA, but whose protections are set to expire before the March 5 “deadline,” are theoretically in much better position under the government’s plan. They have the opportunity to apply for one last two-year renewal of their deportation protection and work permits, meaning they could remain protected by DACA into the early months of 2020.
But there’s a huge catch. They have to apply by October 5, 2017 — a month after the announcement. Any renewal applications received after that point won’t be accepted, and they’ll simply lose DACA when the expiration date on their current work permit arrives.
For immigrants whose current DACA expiration date was in November or December, that’s not a big deal — the government already recommended that people get their renewal applications in at least 120 days in advance. But people whose DACA protections were set to expire in February or early March — and who might have been planning to save up the $495 in application fees over the coming months — are going to have to scramble (especially if they haven’t already heard about the changes to the program).
As a result, it’s likely that some people who could apply for DACA renewal before the program expires won’t, in fact, be able to do so. By the time the government officially starts allowing all DACA protections to expire, on March 6, 2018, the program will probably be smaller than the nearly 800,000 immigrants protected now.
What would “revisiting” DACA even mean at that point? Would Trump allow people who had lost DACA in February, because they hadn’t filed an early renewal, to renew again as if nothing had happened? Would the government pay back wages for those who had already lost their jobs? Would it send planes to countries where young immigrants who would have qualified for DACA (but hadn’t applied) had been deported over the past six months, and tell them to come back?
Trump clearly doesn’t want to be personally culpable for the fate of the “DREAMers.” That’s too bad; it’s part of politics. But if he starts assuaging his own guilt by pretending that he can painlessly “revisit” and extend DACA in six months even if Congress doesn’t act, he’s obscuring the truth about what his government is doing to the people they “love” right now.