The Trump administration announced Tuesday morning that it will no longer offer legal protections to the roughly 800,000 immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children, also known as “DREAMers.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the White House’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, arguing that the measure is unconstitutional.
Enacted by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA allowed individuals who were brought to the country as children to apply for protection from deportation. To be eligible, individuals had to have been in the U.S. since before mid-2007; be enrolled in high school or college, already have a diploma or degree, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military; and have no felonies or multiple or significant misdemeanors. While DACA did not grant eligible individuals lawful immigration status, it deferred their removal from the U.S. and granted work permits.
“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple,” Sessions said in his announcement to the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday, after which he declined to take any questions.
“We are people of compassion and we are people of law, but there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws,” Sessions added. “Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering.”
In a press release, acting Department of Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke said that the department determined that the program “conflicts with our existing immigration laws.” Under the new policy, the Trump administration stopped taking new DACA applications as of Tuesday. However, those that were pending as of September 5 will continue to be processed.
DREAMers whose permits expire before March 5, 2018, can apply for a two-year renewal before October 5. For others, their legal status under DACA could end as early as March 6, 2018. This gives Congress time to act before any DREAMers lose their ability to work or study in the U.S.
During the presidential campaign, President Donald Trump vowed to terminate the program, calling it “illegal.” On Friday, he briefly addressed the matter of DACA, stating, “We love DREAMers. We love everybody.”
Ahead of Trump’s announcement, throngs of people gathered outside the White House Tuesday morning to protest the president’s expected decision to end DACA.