Breaking News
More () »

DACA didn't end, but DREAMERs are still scared

From Nevada to Capitol Hill to Trump Tower in New York City, immigrants and their allies will hold marches, rallies and prayer vigils to make sure their plight remains in the spotlight.
Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US Capitol Police arrest members of the Catholic community and supporters of DACA recipients, during a protest demonstration in support of the DREAM Act as a part of a Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers.

Monday was supposed to be the day that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program officially came to an end, terminating deportation protections for nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

A Supreme Court ruling delayed that end date, possibly by as much as a year, but DACA enrollees are still using Monday to push Congress and the White House to pass a new law to grant them permanent protections.

From Nevada to Capitol Hill to Trump Tower in New York City, immigrants and their allies will hold marches, rallies and prayer vigils to make sure their plight remains in the spotlight. Because even though the Supreme Court bought them some time, that reprieve is only temporary.

A federal judge in California ruled in January that the Trump administration used flawed legal reasoning when it decided to end the Obama-era program, and ordered it to continue processing DACA renewals. The Department of Justice made a rare, direct request to the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the court ruled last week that the case must go through the regular appeals process.

That means the case now goes back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California, which is expected to rule sometime this summer. The earliest the Supreme Court could accept that case would be in October, pushing a final ruling possibly into 2019.

The Department of Homeland Security must continue processing DACA renewal applications throughout that time. But that grace period also allowed Congress to push a DACA bill to the back of the line, arguing they no longer face the kind of pressure to pass a bill like they faced in recent months as the March 5 deadline approached.

While most DACA enrollees can breathe easy for the time being, there are still thousands at risk of being deported due to the back-and-forth over the status of the program.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not begin accepting DACA renewals until Jan. 13 following the California judge's ruling. That created a massive backlog of renewal applications, which can take three to five months for the agency to process.

A total of 13,090 DACA permits are due to expire in March, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another 5,320 DACA permits expire in April and nearly 14,000 more in May.

That means tens of thousands of DACA enrollees may lose their DACA protections while they wait for their renewals to go through. And immigration advocates warn that they would be exposed to deportation if they are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during that time.

That fear is intensified by the fact that ICE has been arresting a higher number of undocumented immigrants who haven't committed any crimes beyond their immigration violations. Shortly after taking office, Trump changed the approach, allowing ICE agents to pick up any undocumented immigrants they encounter in their day-to-day lives. That was a sharp departure from the Obama administration, which focused on those with criminal records.

To qualify for DACA, created in 2012, DREAMers had to undergo a thorough background check, prove they arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, were 30 or younger, were attending school or in the military, and had not committed a felony or serious misdemeanor. The program provided work permits and two-year reprieves from deportation that could be renewed.

Before You Leave, Check This Out