The Trump administration formally announced on Tuesday that it will put an end to an Obama-era program that provided immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, a group commonly known as Dreamers, with deferred action from deportation.
While some evangelical leaders and many political activists on the Left called on President Donald Trump to protect Dreamers from being deported, the administration has also been pressured by those who believe the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, established by an executive order signed by Barack Obama, is unconstitutional.
Amid this week's media firestorm surrounding the administration's announcement on DACA, here are five things Americans need to know about the program.
Click on the next page above to read more
1. DACA was created by the Obama administration, not Congress
DACA was unilaterally established by former President Obama via executive order in June 2012 without a public comment period to allow immigrants who were brought to the country illegally by their parents or guardians when they were children to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and gives recipients eligibility to receive a permit to work in the United States.
In order to be eligible for the program, recipients had to be younger than 31 in June 2012.
The two-year deferred action period was subject renewal and at least 800,000 Dreamers benefited from the program. These numbers include immigrants from El Salvador (28,000), Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, South Korea (7,300), Philippines (5,000) and India (3,000), according to Daily Wire editor and conservative commentator Ben Shaipro.
Obama tried to expand the program in 2014 and make as many as 4 million parents of legal residents and citizens eligible for deferred action, a program known as DAPA. However, the expansion of the deferred action program was blocked by the courts.
2. DACA only offers temporary reprieve from deportation, not legal status
Despite what some might think, deferred removal action does not provide a recipient with "lawful status" in the United States.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, deferred action is simply the "use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time."
However, "Deferred action does not provide lawful status."
Therefore, DACA recipients are not considered people who have "a valid non-immigrant status in the United States."
As The Heritage Foundation's David Inserra and Hans Von Spakovsky note, "DACA provides pseudo-legal status" and gives Dreamers "a promise that they won't be deported, as well as providing them with work authorizations and access to Social Security and other government benefits."
In 2012, Obama said DACA was merely a "temporary fix" and could not be considered "amnesty."
"This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," Obama said. "This is a temporary stopgap measure."
3. DACA's constitutionality is heavily debated.
Considering that DACA was created without Congress passing legislation to permit such a program that skirts around the country's immigration laws, opponents have long argued that the program is unconstitutional and an "abuse of power."
DACA critics argue that the fact that the deferred action program was not created legislatively but rather through an executive order means that the program has little leg to stand on constitutionally.
"The place to have the debate about what to do about illegal aliens who were minors when they came to this country is in the halls of Congress, not the White House," Inserra and Von Spakovsky wrote in their op-ed in The Hill. "Failure to correct this overreach will only set a dangerous precedent that weakens our constitutional balance of powers."
Obama defended the legality of DACA in a post on Facebook in which he asserted that the program was based "on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm."
The issue of DACA's constitutionality has "never been resolved" by the courts, Drexel University law professor Anil Kalhan told Quartz.
Although the Supreme Court was split 4–4 when it heard challenges against DAPA in 2016 and upheld a lower court ruling blocking the program, the Supreme Court has not ruled on DACA itself.
"The DACA program was created by the Obama administration through a 2012 executive action — that is, the executive branch relied on a combination of its own authority and the powers delegated to it by Congress in order to form DACA," Think Progress' justice editor Ian Millhiser argues in an op-ed. "Indeed, the case for or against DACA isn't really a constitutional case at all. It is a question of whether federal laws enacted by Congress permitted the Obama administration to act as it did."
4. States threatened to sue if DACA was not rescinded.
Attorneys general from 10 conservative states threatened to take legal action against the Trump administration if it did not act by Sept. 5 to rescind DACA.
The top legal officers for the states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia, and South Carolina signed onto a letter sent to Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions in late June explaining that if the Department of Homeland Security discontinued the DACA program, the states would drop their lawsuit pending in the Southern District of Texas.
"Otherwise, the complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits," the letter reads in part.
Now that the administration has announced that it will roll back the DACA program, 15 blue states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the administration. Those states are New Mexico, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
5. Trump is "gradually" winding down DACA, not suddenly halting it.
Although some fear that the Trump administration's announcement on DACA will mean that the 800,000 DACA recipients will soon be rounded up and deported, Trump said in a statement released by the White House on Tuesday that his rescinding of DACA will be "a gradual process, not a sudden phase out."
"[T]he Department of Homeland Security will begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption. While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today," Trump's statement reads. "Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration."
Trump's statement explains that the permits will not begin to expire for another six months and will remain active for up to two years.
"Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act," Trump added.
Also on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he could "revisit" the issue if Congress doesn't act to create a more permanent solution.
"Congress now has six months to legalize DACA (something the Obama administration was unable to do)," Trump tweeted. "If they can't, I will revisit this issue!"