For months, the White House has pushed a false talking point that March 5, 2018 is the key deadline to pass a permanent congressional solution to ensure a group of Dreamers do not fall at risk of deportation.
But that date doesn’t actually mean anything.
On September 5, 2017, President Donald Trump phased out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, calling for an “orderly transition and wind-down” to a program that grants temporary deportation relief and work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. The administration gave current recipients whose DACA statuses expired before March 5, 2018 — about 154,000 eligible people according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics — exactly one month to file for a two-year renewal. The administration then punted the issue to Congress to find a permanent solution.
In the most recent policy debate, the White House and other Republican lawmakers have argued that DACA can be kicked down the road for another congressional battle outside the realms of a government spending bill.
“No one will lose their status until March 5 or later, depending on what happens with the court,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said last week during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
The facts on the ground say otherwise.
DACA recipients can apply for renewals
The White House’s March 5 deadline became immediately irrelevant when a court injunction earlier this month partially reinstated the DACA renewal process, with a federal judge ordering the DHS to process all current DACA applications. The injunction prohibited first-time DACA applicants to apply for the program. Current DACA recipients whose permits have expired or may expire soon were thus able to reapply for a two-year extension of their permit.
The White House may fight the decision, which could mean future DACA recipients will no longer be able to renew their statuses.
DACA recipients have lost and will continue to lose their statuses
Anywhere between 21,000 and 22,000 DACA recipients failed to submit their renewal applications in the one-month period following the White House announcement to end the program. Though it is not inclusive of all the reasons DACA recipients did not file their applications on time, some likely missed the deadline due to the devastating hurricanes in Florida and Texas. Others missed the deadline because the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency left their applications in the mailbox. The Trump administration eventually reversed its decision and allowed applications received by October 5, 2017 to be processed.
The estimated number of people who have lost DACA since September 2017 stands at 17,017, according to a Center for American Progress pre-injunction estimate, with an average of 122 people losing their statuses every day. The average number of people whose DACA protections have expired is likely lower because the injunction gave a green light to renewals. Yet, if past government inaction is prologue, the government has a way of slowing down the process as it did during the one-month renewal period between September and October 2017.
DACA recipients can still be detained
By virtue of their statuses, DACA recipients ostensibly have lawful presence in the country. But federal immigration agents are still detaining them. When recipients with expired DACA statuses are in the process of renewing their applications, they can still be at risk of deportation. Mario, a 23-year-old construction worker and Virginia resident who was in the middle of applying for DACA status for the third time, was deported to El Salvador in August 2017.
Current DACA recipients can also be detained and deported. Border agents detained and forcibly removed a 23-year-old DACA recipient living in Calexico to Mexico in February 2017. Other border agents detained several DACA recipients for hours at the Falfurrias checkpoint in Texas in September 2017. And the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained and later released an immigrant mom with DACA as she went to post bail for another immigrant in August 2017.