6 Things To Know About Trump's Reversal On 'Dreamers'

Jun 16, 2017
Originally published on June 17, 2017 3:45 am

President Trump has reversed himself on one key campaign promise on immigration — and kept another.

The Department of Homeland Security says it will preserve, for now, an Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. It's the most explicit statement yet that the Trump administration will not seek to deport the so-called "Dreamers" who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

At the same time, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly officially revoked another program that might have protected some of their parents from deportation.

Then-candidate Trump promised to get rid of both programs during last year's campaign, saying "we will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties" during a major immigration speech in August 2016.

But his position on so-called "Dreamers" has been shifting since the election. Here's where it stands now and what that could mean for "Dreamers" and their parents.

1. What did the Trump administration just do?

In a FAQ posted on its web site Thursday night, the Department of Homeland Security says current DACA recipients "will continue to be eligible for renewal," and that DHS will continue to abide by "the terms of the original DACA program" as outlined by the Obama administration on June 15, 2012.

The Obama-era memo, issued five years ago this week, lays out who is eligible for DACA. It's also what protects people who signed up for the program from deportation, and allows them to apply for work permits.

2. Does this go beyond what President Trump had said before?

Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump told ABC that DACA recipients "shouldn't be very worried."

"I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody," he told ABC. "But I will tell you, we're looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we're looking at it with great heart." Trump suggested that a new DACA policy would be forthcoming, but did not clarify what it was.

3. Is this a victory for immigrant rights activists?

Not exactly. It's clearly a relief for some of the roughly 800,000 people who've signed up for DACA. As the fifth anniversary of the program approached, there were fears that the Trump administration might abolish it altogether.

"It is an important win for those 800,000 individuals," says Muzna Ansari, immigration policy manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. "But in the grand scheme of things, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, who have really been living in fear" under the Trump administration.

4. How do President Trump's supporters feel about it?

Some are deeply disappointed. Others are willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt because his administration has been aggressively cracking down on illegal immigration across the board.

"He broke the DACA promise," says Dan Stein, president of Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower immigration levels. "Are we happy about it? No," Stein said. "We think they should have allowed the work authorizations to expire. End of story, full stop."

But Stein is taking the long view. He says the White House may want to use the DACA program as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Congressional Democrats on a broader immigration reform package.

5. What is DAPA, and how does it fit in?

DAPA is shorthand for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. It's another Obama-era program that would have extended protection from deportation even further. It was designed for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents who were themselves living in the U.S. illegally.

But it was quickly blocked by the courts, and never implemented.

DHS officially revoked DAPA on Thursday. But that was not a big surprise, since no one expected the Trump administration to defend the program in court, as the Obama administration had.

6. Is this a final decision on the future DACA?

In a word, no.

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have been emphasizing that this is not a permanent decision, and that president could still change his mind and revoke that program, too.

But for now, the administration continues to accept new DACA applications. And DHS says that "no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Trump administration says at least for now, it will not deport so-called DREAMers. Those are young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. At the same time, the administration has officially revoked a program that would have protected some of their parents from deportation. Joining us to talk about all this is NPR's Joel Rose. And Joel, explain what happened.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, first of all, the Trump administration officially killed an Obama-era program that was intended to protect the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents even if those parents were themselves living in the country illegally. But that program was basically dead already. It was never really enforced, and it was blocked by the courts very quickly. But here is what is really striking and does represent a shift in policy.

Last night, the Department of Homeland Security said it will allow another Obama-era program to continue. It's called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And it's intended for immigrants who were brought here as children. DACA, as it's known, protects recipients from deportation and allows them to get work permits. And DHS has now said in writing that it will continue, which is a reversal of what President Trump promised during the campaign.

SHAPIRO: What has the reaction been from these so-called DREAMers today?

ROSE: Well, it's sort of a mixed reaction. I mean on the one hand, there's a lot of relief. It's a big deal for the roughly 800,000 people who've signed up for DACA. Here's activist Muzna Ansari. She's with the New York Immigration Coalition.

MUZNA ANSARI: It is an important win for those 800,000 individuals. But in the grand scheme of things, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country who have really been living in fear.

ROSE: And activists say they really still don't have a lot of trust in this administration even though it is apparently going to preserve DACA for now.

SHAPIRO: As you say, this is a reversal of what Trump said on the campaign trail. So what are his supporters saying today?

ROSE: Some of them are not very happy. But this shift did not come as a total surprise. Since the election Trump has expressed some sympathy for the DREAMers. And this administration has mostly not tried to deport them even as it has cracked down on illegal immigration in many other ways. I talked today to Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower immigration levels. And this is what he said about Trump.

DAN STEIN: He broke the DACA promise. Are we happy about it - no. Do we believe there was a better approach - yes. We think they should have allowed the work authorizations to expire, end of story - full stop.

ROSE: Stein is taking the long view, though. He says the White House may want to use the DACA program as kind of a bargaining chip in negotiations on immigration reform with Congress. But not all of Trump's supporters are seeing it that way, and some are pretty disappointed.

SHAPIRO: Ultimately, what does this mean for people who are currently DACA recipients or who might qualify for it but have been afraid to apply?

ROSE: Well, in the short run, it appears the program will continue. But in the long run, the short answer is, we don't really know. I mean the Trump administration is emphasizing today that this is not a permanent decision on DACA and that the president could still change his mind. But for now, the administration is accepting new applications, and DACA recipients can sign up to apply for work permits.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Joel Rose. Thanks a lot.

ROSE: You're welcome.

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