Eight hundred thousand. That’s how many young people face an uncertain future in the United States after President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gave immigrants brought to the country illegally as children authorization to work and protection from deportation.
Though the changes won’t go into effect for six months, reaction to the president’s decision has been immediate.
New York will not demonize diversity.
We will not stand by as 42,000 NYers are deported.
If President Trump rescinds #DACA, we will sue.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) September 4, 2017
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) September 4, 2017
So, what is DACA, who is affected and what does Trump’s announcement mean for the country’s 800,000 Dreamers? It’s time to FAQ the news.
What is DACA?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an Obama administration policy that lifted the threat of deportation from immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children and provided work permits. President Obama implemented the policy through executive action in 2012, saying, “They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
Since DACA began, approximately 800,000 people have received temporary residency under the program.
Who is eligible for DACA?
Deferred Action focuses on young people brought to the United States as children who have no serious criminal record and are current students or high school graduates. Dubbed “Dreamers,” many of the people who’ve received DACA protections arrived in the country so young that they had no say in the decision to immigrate, and the U.S. is the only home they’ve ever known. Anyone who has committed a felony or serious misdemeanor is ineligible, and applicants have to renew their participation in the program every two years.
Does DACA grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants?
In a word, no. President Obama said as much when he announced the program five years ago: “Now let’s be clear: this is not an amnesty. This is not a path to citizenship. It is not a permanent fix.” Rather, DACA has served as a stopgap that has allowed young people living in the U.S. to work legally, pay taxes and get driver’s licenses without fearing deportation.
How is President Trump changing the program?
By killing it. Trump has been vocally anti-immigration, and today he announced that he would phase out DACA, beginning six months from now on March 5, 2018. Effective immediately, the government will stop accepting new applications, while those already in the program can apply for renewal during the next month.
The decision comes after a coalition of Republican state leaders threatened to sue the federal government if it didn’t nix DACA by September 5. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to reports, told the president he would not defend the law in court against the challenge.
Now, Trump is laying the responsibility for young migrants’ futures at the feet of Congress. “The president wants to see responsible immigration reform, and he wants that to be part of it,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Is there any reason to believe that Congress will be able to pass immigration reform in the next six months?
Not so much. For decades the government has been vowing to reform the country’s immigration system, yet efforts to actually pass meaningful legislation have failed, time and time again. In fact, deferred action was Obama’s response to the inability of Congress to get the job done.
How will ending DACA affect the economy?
In his speech announcing the end of deferred action, Sessions called the program “unilateral executive amnesty,” and said that it “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” But the economic impact isn’t as simple as the “they took our jobs” rhetoric would suggest. According to Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi, rescinding DACA protections will reduce both the labor force and the GDP by .5 percent, resulting in an economic loss of at least $105 billion over the next five years.
On a more micro level, DACA has dramatically improved the lives of recipients. According to Migration Policy Institute, a 2013-14 survey of DACA enrollees showed that 40 percent had gotten their first job as a result of DACA protection and half got jobs better suited to their training and skills. Six percent started a business; 54 percent purchased a car; 60 percent bought a house.
Will DACA enrollees be deported?
That’s the question looming behind every headline and angry tweet today, and for now, there’s no easy answer. Immigration officials have said they won’t actively target the DACA population for removal, but with legal protections stripped away, these young people will be unable to work and undeniably vulnerable. Particularly disturbing: DACA applicants have been through rigorous vetting and have trusted the government with detailed personal information about themselves and their families. With the policy’s protections removed, the data they provided could easily be used for immigration sweeps and deportation raids.
What’s been the reaction to Trump’s announcement?
Some Republican leaders have cheered the end of DACA, saying that Trump delivered on promises and that DACA was an overreach of executive power. Meanwhile, those in favor of the policy have responded with vocal and visible protests. DACA supporters staged a candlelight rally outside the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner; students in Denver spontaneously walked out of class; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue.
President Obama, who has mostly stayed mum on the Trump administration thus far, issued a statement condemning the decision as “self-defeating” and “cruel.”
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question,” he wrote. “Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”