With the election of President Trump in November 2016, the fate of a 2012 Obama administration immigration program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) hangs in limbo. DACA allows a particular group of undocumented minor immigrants, the Dreamers, to obtain a two-year renewable period of deferred action from deportation. DACA also allows Dreamers to get a work permit during the two-year period or attend school. Eligibility for DACA requires that the recipient meets certain conditions outlined in DACA and completes the DACA application process.
One of Trump’s highly popular campaign promises was to “‘immediately terminate’” DACA, which would impact over 750,000 DACA recipients. However, once in office, Trump announced he was leaving DACA in place, pending review. This move by Trump disappointed many of his supporters who trusted him to honor his immigration campaign pledge to eliminate DACA.
As the destiny of DACA remains unclear, on June 29, 2017, a group of 10 state attorneys general sent a letter to Trump demanding he rescinds DACA and stops renewing or issuing new DACA permits. The 10-state coalition includes attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and the governor of Idaho.
If Trump does not comply with the request by Sept. 5, the attorney generals will amend an ongoing lawsuit in Texas District Court to include the DACA program in its entirety. The Trump administration would then be forced to either defend or abandon DACA.
The 10 attorneys general argue that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority when enacting DACA, effectively usurping congressional authority, Texas Attorney Ken Paxton, leader of the 10-state coalition, stated in a letter to foxnews.com that Obama enacted DACA after repeatedly failing to get Congress to pass the DREAM Act. “President Obama bypassed Congress and unilaterally hatched DACA,” wrote Paxton in his letter. Paxton said that bypass violated the separation of powers inherent in our constitutional system.
In response, on July 21, 2017, a group of 20 state attorneys general, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, sent a letter to Trump urging him to keep DACA in place. The letter disputes the legal challenges of the DACA program relied on by the opposition. The attorneys general also cite the family ties the DACA recipients maintain and the contributions they have made to their local communities and economies.
The 20 attorneys general who signed the pro-DACA letter includes those from California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington state.
The letter appeals to a sentiment expressed by Trump that Dreamers should feel safe. “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a very big heart. We are going to take care of everybody,” he stated at a Feb. 16 Presidential news conference.
Trump’s mixed messages about DACA have confused both supporters and opponents of DACA. On June 15, 2017, John Kelly, then Homeland Security Secretary, in conjunction with a memorandum revoking DAPA, another Obama immigration program, specifically noted that DACA “will remain in effect.” That statement gave immigrants hope that Trump was going to maintain DACA as a viable immigration program. However, after making that pronouncement, Homeland Security officials backtracked and said the statement was not an indication DACA was a secure program.
With the Sept. 5 deadline looming, on July 20, 2017, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, held a joint press conference expressing their support of DACA. Graham defended DACA based on the hard work and contributions the Dreamers bring to the United States. Graham urged Trump and the Republican Party to take those factors into consideration when deciding the fate of DACA. “The moment of reckoning coming. When they right the history of these times I am going to be with these kids,” said Graham.