Speaking to the press in Capitol Hill, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced that “DREAMers,” or beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), would not be a priority for immigration even if Congress fails to come up with a legislative replacement to the program before its March 5 termination date.
DACA is an Obama era executive order that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to apply for temporary protection against deportation. The program allows DREAMers (named after the DREAM Act, a failed bill with the same provisions as DACA) to apply for renewable work permits and even a driver’s license, making it possible for them to lead a normal life and contribute to society.
In September last year, President Trump announced he would rescind DACA on the basisof it being an overreach of the former president’s executive power. Trump, however, placed a 6-month delay for the program to end, giving Congress time to come up with a legislative solution in its place.
Over the last few months, lawmakers and immigrants alike have anxiously waited for a bipartisan bill to finally decide the fate of the thousands of DREAMers across the country. Congress has been busy working on a DACA substitute, presenting various versions of bills with distinct immigration policies—some involving DREAMers, others involving other visas like the H-1B visa.
But with less than a month to go and no real solution in sight, immigration rights activists believe the worst may very well happen.
Kelly spoke to reporters at Capitol Hill to ease these concerns, saying that DACA beneficiaries would not be priority targets for deportation.He explained that undocumented immigrants still have to go through a lengthy process that takes years before they are deported, adding that immigrants without criminal records “never [come] onto anyone’s scope.”
Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric that defined his campaign, Trump has expressed sympathy for DACA’s beneficiaries, proposing that Congress include paths to citizenship in their respective bills. He has, however, also demanded the inclusion of his long-promised border wall and the elimination of chain immigration, which he wants replaced with a merit-based system.
Not surprisingly, Democrat lawmakers balked at these demands, and even some Republicans expressed doubt over the practicality of a wall. The ongoing debate has raised talks about postponing the March 5 deadline.
Kelly, however, thinks an extension would not be productive, noting that Congress would only act when they are under pressure. He also thinks it’s unlikely the president would unilaterally extend the deadline or approve of such an extension, emphasizing that Trump is doing away with the program precisely because of its unconstitutionality.
If you are a DACA beneficiary who wants to learn more about your status and rights, schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to talk to Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.