The Trump administration on Tuesday slammed the door on new applications for the program that allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.
A memo from acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said current enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can renew their protection from deportation on an annual basis.
The memo came about a month after a Supreme Court ruling in which President Donald Trump’s effort to end DACA was blocked. A majority of justices said no policy rationale was given for ending the program, which was created by former President Barack Obama through an executive order in 2012.
The decision, announced by the Department of Homeland Security in a statement on its website, was framed by Wolf as an interim step in response to the Supreme Court’s decision.
“As the Department continues looking at the policy and considers future action, the fact remains that Congress should act on this matter,” Wolf said. “There are important policy reasons that may warrant the full rescission of the DACA policy.”
The Trump administration will reject all initial requests for DACA and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents as well as new and pending requests for advanced parole unless there are exceptional circumstances. Advanced parole allows DACA recipients to return to the United States after travel outside the country, according to the DHS.
Renewals for DACA now will be on an annual basis rather than every two years.
In the full Department of Homeland Security memo, Wolf fired off a shot at Congress for failing to resolve the issue of illegal immigrants who came to the United States with their parents, often as young children.
“First, even if the DACA policy could have been justified as a temporary measure when it was created, Congress arguably has had more than sufficient time to consider affording permanent status or immigration relief to the class of aliens covered by the policy. And yet, although various proposals have been advanced to do that, Congress has so far declined to take action. Particularly in the face of this failure to reach a legislative solution, I have serious doubts as to whether DHS should continue to provide either a reprieve from removal or a grant of attendant benefits to more than half a million aliens through a broad, class-based deferred-action policy,” he wrote.
Wolf said he was troubled that DACA puts the Department of Homeland Security in the business of supporting those who break the law.
“DACA makes clear that, for certain large classes of individuals, DHS will at least tolerate, if not affirmatively sanction, their ongoing violation of the immigration laws. I am deeply troubled that the message communicated by non-enforcement policies like DACA may contribute to the general problem of illegal immigration in a manner that is inconsistent with DHS’s law enforcement mission,” he wrote.
Democrats expressed outrage at the memo.
DHS does NOT get to pick and choose which laws and court rulings to follow. They must accept new DACA applications NOW. Dreamers are home. https://t.co/iRErfWI3Vp
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) July 28, 2020
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) July 28, 2020
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, said he is ready to return to court immediately, according to USA Today.
“The courts have spoken: DACA is in full effect, including for new applications,” he said. “We are ready if the Trump Administration tries to block or dismantle DACA. We know what it takes to defend DACA – we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again if necessary.”
Not everyone was ready for legal warfare.
“On the face of it, this is good news for hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum.
In explaining the memo and how it fits into the overall White House policy on DACA, the White House held a briefing with reporters, with all information to be attributed to a senior administration official, according to a White House media pool report.
The official said the court did not rule on what the White House had done as much as it did the way in which it was done.
“It’s important to note here, at the outset, that the Court did not rule that Obama’s program was lawful,” the official said. “The issue that the Court reached in its decision was only that the administration had insufficiently justified its wind-down of the DACA program. The court agreed that the administration can, in fact, pursue a wind-down of the DACA program.”
“I think the legal justification for saying this was an unlawful exercise of executive power is fairly clear. What the Court would like us to do is to review materials and to exhaustively consider the various policy inputs that would go into the formation — that went into the formation of DACA and would go into the formation of any wind-down policy,” the official said.
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