Nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants could be on the verge of losing the US government program that protects them from deportation.
Sources have told CNN that the Trump administration is set to announce an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Pulling the plug on DACA would overturn President Barack Obama’s signature immigration policy and could upend the lives of more than three quarters of a million people. But details of exactly how — and when — the administration would implement any changes to the program remain uncertain, leaving a number of questions over who could be impacted.
The White House has said it will announce a decision on the program Tuesday. Some sources stress that the administration’s decision won’t be final until an official announcement — something that activists are seizing on as they call for a renewed push to pressure officials to keep the program in place.
While opponents of DACA praise word of its possible demise and immigrant rights advocates make a last-ditch effort to save it, here’s a look at some key questions about the program and its future:
Who’s protected by the program?
These are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as Dreamers.
Since the Obama administration began DACA in 2012, 787,580 people have been approved for the program, according to the latest government figures.
To be eligible, an applicant must have arrived in the US before age 16 and lived there since June 15, 2007. They cannot have been older than 30 when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012.
Among the accepted applicants, Mexico is by far the biggest country of origin, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
What does DACA do for them?
If their applications are approved by US immigration officials, DACA recipients can come out of the shadows and obtain valid driver’s licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs.
It doesn’t give them a path to become US citizens or even legal permanent residents — something immigrant rights advocates have criticized, saying it leaves people in limbo.
How long does the deferral last?
Under the DACA program, Dreamers can apply to defer deportation and legally reside in the US for two years. After that, they can apply for renewal. By March 31, 240,700 people had applied for renewal in the 2017 fiscal year and nearly 800,000 renewals have been approved over the life of the program.
What has Trump said about DACA?
When it comes to talking about Dreamers and DACA, Trump has been all over the map.
He vowed to dismantle the program on the campaign trail, but once he took office he signaled he might take a softer stance.
“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids,” Trump said in February. “We’re gonna deal with DACA with heart.”
Last week, when asked whether Dreamers have anything to worry about, Trump said, “We love the Dreamers.”
So what’s he planning to do?
Two sources told CNN that the plan, set to be announced Tuesday, is to end DACA but have a six-month delay in any action regarding the program to allow Congress time to pass a legislative fix that would allow the undocumented immigrants to stay in the country.
It’s unclear how this would impact renewals.
If Trump ends DACA, is there any hope for Dreamers?
Some lawmakers have proposed a bipartisan measure that could protect Dreamers from deportation if Trump ends the program.
But a number of past efforts to protect the Dreamers — widely seen as the most sympathetic group of undocumented immigrants — have stalled in Congress, and it’s unclear whether a new initiative would be able to gather the momentum it needs to pass.
Why is this coming up now?
Earlier this summer, 10 state attorneys general wrote to the President asking him to end DACA and giving him a September 5 ultimatum.
Their message: Rescind DACA, or get prepared for a legal challenge from us.
The move was praised by groups who advocate for stricter immigration controls, who have long decried DACA as executive overreach and argued that it is akin to providing amnesty for lawbreakers.
Immigrant rights activists have said the attorney generals gave Trump what amounts to a false deadline, calling on the administration to stand its ground and keep the program in place.
Most of the state attorneys general behind the ultimatum appear to be sticking to their guns. But last week, Tennessee’s attorney general said he’d changed his mind.
“Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benefit and service to our country. They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country. … At this time, our office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach,” Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in a letter to his state’s US senators.
Why are people called Dreamers?
The term Dreamers comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. It was first introduced in 2001. The latest version was voted down in the Senate in December 2010.
But the name stuck. And if the Trump does decide to end DACA, you can expect to hear it coming up again in the halls of Congress.
Can you still be deported if you have been approved?
Yes. Immigration officials say this happens when a DACA recipient is found to be a threat to either public or national safety. About 1,500 people have had their deferral canceled due to a crime or gang-related activity or admission, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
That’s less than .2% of the total number of people accepted into the program.
What information and fees are required?
Applicants must provide evidence they were living in the United States at the prescribed times, proof of education and confirmation they are who they say they are. They must pass background, fingerprint and other checks that look at identifying biological features.
The fee to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals, including employment authorization and biometric services, is $495.
If the program ends, could this information be used against Dreamers?
This is something immigrant rights advocates say they’re very concerned about, vowing to take steps to prevent it from happening.
Where do I find out more about DACA?
There are answers to more complex questions on the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed incorrect figures for the number of people approved for the DACA program and the number of renewals over the life of the program. As of March 31, 2017, 787,580 people have been approved for the program since it began and nearly 800,000 renewals have been approved over the life of the program.