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Trump increases deportations of formerly protected DREAMers

20 Apr

Alan Gomez, USA TODAY

The Trump administration has stepped up the deportation of undocumented immigrants who had come to the United States as children and lost their protected status, which had allowed them to stay, federal data provided to USA TODAY shows.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations revoked the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status of enrollees who committed serious crimes, became affiliated with gangs or otherwise became threats to public safety. Under Obama, that led to 365 former DACA enrollees being deported, an average of seven a month since the first DACA applications were approved in September 2012.

In the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, 43 former DACA enrollees were deported, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics requested by USA TODAY.

“This is more evidence that the Trump administration is making nearly every person who’s undocumented a priority for removal,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a group that advocates for immigrants in the U.S. “That’s a really poor use of law enforcement resources.”

President Barack Obama created DACA to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country before they turned 16.

Under the program, those with clean criminal records who were going to school or graduated could submit an application to the federal government. If approved by the Department of Homeland Security, the immigrants were protected from deportation for two years and could receive a work permit. They could also re-apply to extend their DACA status for an additional two years.

More than 750,000 people were approved for the program and the vast majority were granted a renewal.

DACA was not, however, an absolute guarantee. If an enrollee was convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor” or three other misdemeanors, their protected status could be revoked. That happened to 1,488 people under Obama and Trump combined.

Under Obama, 507 were allowed to stay in the country vs. the 365 deported. Some were released on bond, some were kept under supervision and others were freed. Under Trump, 20 were allowed to remain in the U.S. compared to the 43 who were deported.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for lower levels of immigration, said that increase in deportations shows how federal immigration officers feel more comfortable pursuing deportations under Trump than Obama. “They knew who those people were and felt empowered to act on them right away,” Vaughan said.

The Department of Homeland Security said part of the reason for the spike in deportations is that “a number” of those deported were already in removal proceedings when Trump assumed office on Jan. 20. Department spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the remainder were simply part of the regular process of deporting people whose DACA was revoked.

“The grounds for DACA termination have not changed since the inception of the program,” Christensen said.

But the grounds for people being deported have changed. Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 that vastly expanded the reasons why undocumented immigrants are considered priorities for deportation. Now, undocumented immigrants who are only charged with crimes can be deported, a big change from the Obama administration, which required people be convicted of crimes.

Homeland Security data show that 676 immigrants whose DACA status was revoked still face removal proceedings. Ninety of them remain in custody.