President Donald Trump tweeted early Thursday morning that the 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants currently being protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have “nothing to worry about” — dramatically misrepresenting his own policy.
Immigrants whose DACA protections and work permits (which must be renewed every two years) are set to expire before March 5, 2018, are required to apply for their renewals by October 5, 2017 — or else their DACA protections simply won’t be renewed.
That deadline was set by a memo from Trump’s Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday — part of the administration’s efforts, formally announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to wind down DACA over the next six months.
The October 5 window is extremely tight. It’s a month or two before people have been submitting renewal applications, and before this week, the government was actually warning people not to apply for DACA renewal too early. So lawyers and community groups have their work cut out for them in getting tens of thousands of DACA recipients to apply for renewal in a rush.
But the president, who professes to “love” and have a “big heart” for DACA recipients, isn’t helping — he’s actively helping mislead them about their futures.
For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about - No action!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2017
But perhaps more confusing than the tweet itself are its reported origins. Trump’s tweet reportedly stemmed from a conversation with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wanted to reassure DACA recipients they wouldn’t be marked as priority for deportation during this six-month period — which Trump brazenly translated as “nothing to worry about.”
Trump also tweeted earlier in the week that he would “revisit” DACA in six months — apparently oblivious to the fact that as of Wednesday, his administration is no longer accepting new applications for DACA protections.
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
The president has 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. But in the meantime, twice in the past three days, he has tweeted to say there is no change to DACA and that DREAMers are completely safe.
These statements put DREAMers in danger of losing their protections (or applying under false premises) because of misunderstandings. And it lulls Congress into feeling a false sense of security; if there are no changes to DACA between September 5 and March 5, there’s no problem waiting to pass a bill to protect DACA recipients until March 4.
Because this is the truth: The administration has claimed March 5 as the “official” end to DACA, but 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. And they’re especially likely to miss that deadline if they see a tweet from the president telling them that nothing has changed.
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.