Politico reported on Sunday night that President Trump is on the verge of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides work permits and a reprieve from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The president is reportedly planning to announce on Tuesday that he will terminate the program with a six-month delay to allow time for Congress to pass a legislative fix. Other outlets followed up with similar reports while cautioning that the move is not a done deal, since Trump has been known to change his mind on policy decisions at the last minute.
DACA, which the Obama administration created as an executive order in 2012, applies to about 800,000 people known as “Dreamers,” who must apply for work permits from the federal government every two years. Ending the program would throw this population into uncertainty, and spark their fears of being deported to countries that many don’t remember.
If DACA recipients did become subject to deportation, it would not be difficult for the federal government to find them, since they handed over personal information in order to qualify for the program.
Trump repeatedly vowed to end DACA on the campaign trail — a promise that pleased his fervently anti-immigration base. But since he was elected, the president has adopted a more conflicted tone, proclaiming in an April interview that Dreamers could “rest easy,” because his administration was more concerned about criminals. His waffling reflects the fact that the program is broadly popular, and that nixing it would be among the most divisive moves Trump has made yet. A number of Republicans have expressed support for keeping it in place, most prominently House Speaker Paul Ryan. Influential business leaders like Apple CEO Tim Cook have also spoken out in favor of the law, and Politico’s Michael Grunwald reported on Sunday night that President Obama would issue a statement if DACA ends — a rare move from Obama since he left office.
But despite some GOP support, a legislative fix might be a heavy lift. As HuffPost reports, “There are GOP members who would likely support legislation for Dreamers as standalone bills, without other conditions. But most have said they would only vote on bills that help undocumented immigrants if Congress first addresses border security or enforcement measures ― if they would vote for them at all.”
The fear of primary challenges animates Republicans’ decision-making processes, and voting to protect undocumented immigrants in any form would open up some GOPers to a nativist attack from the right.
Another question is whether Democrats would play along with the demands Republicans are likely to make in exchange for a pro-immigration vote, which could include funding for Trump’s fabled border wall.
In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are on tenterhooks, waiting to see if they will still be allowed to live and work in the only country they know as home.