Federal agency still accepting applications providing deportation relief for some DREAMers

“I’m unable to plan as far as a week in advance because I’m uncertain of my status in this country.”

Immigrant Jose Montes attends an event on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, DAPA, part of the immigration relief program, downtown Los Angeles, in 2015. AP PHOTO/NICK UT
Immigrant Jose Montes attends an event on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, DAPA, part of the immigration relief program, downtown Los Angeles, in 2015. AP PHOTO/NICK UT

For the time being, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is continuing to allow young undocumented immigrants to apply for an Obama-era executive action that provides temporary deportation relief and work authorization, according to Politico and CQ Roll Call.

President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative is unconstitutional and would be subject to immediate repeal after he took office. But the DACA initiative, which was authorized by former President Barack Obama in 2012, was not on the cutting block when Trump signed executive actions on Friday and Monday.

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“We are still accepting/processing DACA requests under existing policy,” Steve E. Blando, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services public affairs officer, wrote. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the agency responsible for processing immigration applications.

Trump’s own senior staff made it clear that the administration would not remove the program as quickly as the president had indicated on the campaign trail.

“We don’t have anything in front of us right now to sign,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed during the first official White House press conference on Monday.

“President Trump has no immediate plans to use his executive powers to undo the Obama administration’s order that protects some young illegal immigrants known as ‘DREAMers,’” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Fox News Sunday, pointing out that the president would work with Congress to come up with a “long-term solution.”

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Spicer did not provide a timeline for when the president would terminate DACA. Instead, he said that the federal immigration agency would prioritize “those in the country illegally and [those that] have a criminal record or pose a threat to the American people,” he said at the press conference.

Although the government’s decision to proceed with applications comes as a welcome breath of relief for the population of 752,154 current DACA beneficiaries, there is still a lot of uncertainty around what the Trump administration will authorize. He could seek to immediately terminate the ability to work for DACA recipients, or prohibit the renewal of their work authorization cards after they expire.

“The uncertainty of not knowing whether DACA will be taken away today, tomorrow, next week or next year is affecting me physically and emotionally,” Nancy Palacios, a DACA recipient and organizer with Faith in Florida, a member of the faith-based PICO National Network, said in a prepared statement. “I’m experiencing daily migraines, sleepless nights and anxiety attacks…I’m unable to plan as far as a week in advance because I’m uncertain of my status in this country. Not having DACA means I will be forced back into a low-paying job; one that might profit from exploiting undocumented immigrants like me.”

Juan Escalante, another DACA recipient and Digital Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice, said he hopes for permanent congressional action because he feels “deep uncertainty about what the future holds for us.”

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Congress may have a backup plan for immigrants if Trump removes the DACA initiative as an executive action. Both the House and the Senate have introduced similar bipartisan proposals that provides deportation protection for DACA recipients in for three years.

A Center for American Progress (CAP) study found that ending the DACA initiative “would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product, or GDP, cumulatively over a decade.”

ThinkProgress is an editorially-independent news website housed within the Center for American Progress.