By Benjamin J. Schatz, Senior Attorney
On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was ending the DACA program that currently protects hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from deportation and gives them permission to work. Trump’s intent was to end the program by early March.
This was both consistent and inconsistent with Trump’s apparent attitude towards Dreamers. It’s both because Trump has displayed an attitude towards Dreamers that can best be described as shifting sands. At his campaign rallies, Trump fired up his audiences when, for example, he described DACA as giving “amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants” and pledged to end the program. But once he was elected, his tune changed. Suddenly, Trump was saying things like:
- “I want Dreamers for our children also. We’re going to work something out. On a humanitarian basis it’s a very tough situation. We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.” November 28, 2016
- “They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” January 25, 2017
- “We’re going to show great heart.” February 16, 2017
As recently as January of this year, he promised to sign a “bill of love” that would protect Dreamers. But the sands have apparently shifted yet again, because in a fit of pique, President Trump fired off a tweet on Sunday morning shouting “NO MORE DACA DEAL!” Where this leaves the ultimate fate of those currently protected by DACA is anyone’s guess. As of now, DACA lives on thanks to federal courts.
Almost as soon as Trump’s termination of the DACA program was announced, the administration was hit with several lawsuits from individuals, states, and even a university. Some of the judges overseeing those lawsuits decided that the government didn’t go through the right procedures in order to end the DACA program. Because of the judges’ orders, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services started approving DACA renewal applications again in January.
Though requested to do so by the Trump administration, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to make any ruling on the lawsuits until they make their way through the appeals process. Many immigration advocates think there’s a good chance that at least one appeals court will side with the plaintiffs and order the government to keep the DACA program in place until it goes through the proper procedure to end it.
The U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately end up siding with the president, thus allowing DACA to die, but its unsurprising decision to make the lawsuit go through the normal legal process does mean that DACA may continue to exist for another year or more. That gives Congress more time to come up with a legislative solution that would allow Dreamers to legalize their status in the United States and continue contributing to our country. Of course, whether POTUS would approve that solution is an open question given his most recent tweet.