What You Need To Know About The DACA Rollback

Share us on: By Allissa Wickham

Law360, New York (September 5, 2017, 9:01 PM EDT) -- With the Trump administration deciding to phase out DACA, a deportation relief program for young immigrants, thousands of people are set to eventually lose removal protection and work authorization. Here’s what to know about the staggered DACA termination and what states plan to do about it.

Facing a potential legal challenge from several states over the program, the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it will terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives deportation protection and work permits to unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.

Rather than immediately canceling individuals’ DACA status, the administration has chosen to phase out the program, with some recipients allowed to seek renewals for a limited period of time. However, the government will reject all new DACA requests filed after Tuesday.

Below are some of the key takeaways about DACA’s revocation, the response from Congress so far and which states plan to challenge the move.

How and When Will People Be Affected by DACA’s Termination?

People who currently have DACA will be allowed to keep both their period of deportation protection and their work permits until they expire, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DACA typically runs for two years, and thousands of people still have more than a year left in their DACA status.

For DACA renewals, the DHS will adjudicate pending DACA renewal applications that have been received by Tuesday, as well as requests from people whose benefits expire between Tuesday and March 5, as long as they are accepted by Oct. 5.

However, the government will reject all applications to renew DACA that are filed after Oct. 5. And based on the new requirements, it appears that immigrants who have not yet filed for renewal, and whose DACA status expires after March 5, will not be able to apply.

Regarding initial DACA requests, the DHS will still adjudicate pending, new applications that were accepted by Tuesday. But the agency will reject all new DACA requests filed afterward.

The program has benefited nearly 800,000 immigrants, and the multistep rollback will hit people at different times. For instance, according to the DHS, from August to December, 201,678 people are slated to see their DACA expire, and 55,258 have already submitted renewal requests.

Next year, however, 275,344 people are scheduled to have their DACA expire, and only 7,271 have filed renewal requests so far. Finally, in the first seven months of 2019, more than 320,000 people are expected to have their DACA expire while only eight have filed renewal requests so far.

Will DACA Recipients Now Become Targets for Deportation?

In a statement Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he told the DHS that DACA recipients are “not enforcement priorities” unless they’re “criminals,” are involved in criminal activity or are gang members.

Additionally, the DHS said information given to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services through DACA applications won’t be “proactively provided” to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

However, these assurances may prove cold comfort to some DACA recipients as there have already been a number of high-profile incidents in which young immigrants were targeted for enforcement. The acting director of ICE previously also said the government should not wait for unauthorized immigrants to commit a crime before it moves to deport them.

What Is the Rationale for Ending the Program?

In its statement on winding down DACA, the DHS noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had sent a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke laying out his finding that DACA was implemented without “proper statutory authority.” Sessions also suggested that DACA could meet the same fate in court as former President Barack Obama’s blocked deferred action program for some immigrant parents, which has since been rescinded.

Based on the guidance from Sessions, Duke released the memo officially rescinding the 2012 document that created DACA.

The move only came after Texas and nine other states delivered an ultimatum in a June letter that threatened legal action against DACA. Even with the states’ Sept. 5 deadline looming, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the president only made a final decision during the weekend.

Which States Will Challenge This Decision?

Several states have already made noise about suing over the DACA termination.

On Monday, New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said their state will sue if Trump ended DACA, and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also promised to take legal action. On Tuesday, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey jumped into the mix as well, indicating that she will be filing suit.

And already on Tuesday, plaintiffs in an ongoing case in New York filed a letter with the court asking to amend their complaint, arguing that the government’s about-face on DACA runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fifth Amendment.

Will Congress Be Able to Provide a Fix?

It remains to be seen whether a divided Congress that failed to pass Affordable Care Act repeal legislation can strike a deal on a law to protect immigrants who would have qualified for DACA.

Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rained on hopes for swift passage of the DREAM Act on Tuesday when he laid out the legislative agenda for the month. It was crowded with must-pass legislation such as funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, along with bills like a forthcoming aid package for Hurricane Harvey damage in Texas and Louisiana. But it did not mention any immigration reform push.