Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration will end the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program had protected about 800,000 immigrants, known as "Dreamers" who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, from deportation.
"The Department of Justice has advised Homeland Security it should begin an orderly and lawful wind-down, including the cancelation of the memo that authorized this program," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a press conference on Sept. 5, 2017. "Acting Secretary [Elaine] Duke has chosen appropriately a wind-down process."
But Homeland Security also announced plans to continue renewing applications for Dreamers whose DACA status expires during the next six months so Congress can enact legislation to protect those individuals.
So what's the future for the Dreamers that benefited and the DACA program? Here are some answers to critical questions about what's next.
What Is DACA?
DACA, which President Barack Obama implemented through executive order in 2012, allowed people brought to the U.S. as children before mid-2007, to apply for protection from deportation and work permits, if they met certain requirements, including never having been convicted of a crime, arriving in the U.S. before age 16 and having lived there since June 15, 2007.
The program didn't grant recipients legal status, nor did it give anyone a path to legal citizenship. It allowed them to live and work in the U.S. legally, and in some states, obtain a driver's license. Many of these people came "out of the shadows" to sign up, legally get Social Security numbers and register every two years with the Department of Homeland Security. As of March 31, 2017, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year and nearly 800,000 renewals had been approved during the life of the program.
Why End DACA Now?
Sessions and other Republicans have long considered the program an overreach because it wasn't approved by Congress. But earlier this year, 10 state attorneys general — led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — called on President Trump to end the program, telling him to rescind DACA or face a legal challenge. They gave him a Sept. 5, 2017, deadline as an ultimatum. A successful lawsuit was filed in 2014 by 27 Republican state governments against the Obama administration preventing the expansion of DACA, but it left the program intact.
What If Congress Doesn't Act?
Congress failed to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act "DREAM" Act in 2010, leaving the fate of the Dreamers in limbo. There currently are at least two bipartisan bills that could lead to legal status or a pathway to legal citizenship for the Dreamers, one introduced in July by Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham, and a second in the House by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Lucille Roybal-Allard. But there's no guarantee either (or both) will pass.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a statement that he hopes Congress will be able to create permanent legislation to ensure that "those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."
If they don't, or if Congress doesn't create a new bill that creates a legal path for Dreamers, 300,000 will start losing protective status in 2018, and another 320,000 would lose their protection between January and August 2019.
Homeland Security's Next Steps
Secretary Duke laid out plans on how Homeland Security will handle Dreamers and new DACA applications. Nobody's DACA status will be revoked before it expires, and any applications received by Homeland Security by Sept. 5, 2017, will be processed. Anyone whose status expires by March 5, 2018, has until Oct. 5, 2017, to apply for a new two-year permit, and those applications will be processed by Homeland Security.
Homeland Security will, however, reject all DACA requests and applications filed after Sept. 5. 2017.
DACA's Impact on the Economy
In his statement, Sessions said Dreamers had taken jobs away from Americans, but studies have shown that DACA has been a success, not just for the Dreamers, but for the American economy. The data shows that DACA recipients have made significant contributions to the U.S. economy. They've bought cars and their first homes, and 6 percent have started their own businesses — that's twice the average (3.1 percent) of Americans who create businesses. And 87 percent of respondents to the 2016 survey were employed, and 8 percent not working were in school.
Rescinding DACA will cost the country enormously and won't save American taxpayers money, according to an executive summary by the Cato Institute. The price tag of deporting the 800,000 people in the program could be more than $60 billion, plus the U.S. could lose another $280 billion in tax revenue and economic growth. The fiscal costs of DACA recipients is also very minimal because they are not eligible for federally provided welfare benefits. States can extend benefits to DACA recipients, but few have.