The Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which protects unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation — has left some 800,000 enrollees in limbo amid uncertainty over whether Congress or the president will find an alternate solution allowing them to stay in the country legally.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s decision to end DACA, but said the program’s termination would be delayed for six months, giving Congress time to establish a replacement program, though talking points circulated by the Trump administration suggest the time is also meant to give Dreamers time to self-deport.
President Trump issued a statement on his decision calling for Congress to take action, but his remarks left unanswered questions over whether he would step in if lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement.
Here is a breakdown of what is known and what remains unclear.
What is happening now?
The attorney general’s announcement essentially started a countdown for Congress to make some kind of decision on how to adjust or dismiss the DACA program that President Obama put in place in 2012.
The Justice Department recommended to the Department of Homeland Security and the White House that the DHS should begin “an orderly lawful wind down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program,” according to Sessions.
Alex Wong/Getty ImagesAttorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration at the Justice Department, Sept. 5, 2017, in Washington, DC.
What happens in six months?
A literal interpretation of the announcement from Sessions would suggest that the program ends if Congress does not come up with an alternative in six months.
Will Trump step in with a solution?
Trump’s initial statements put the onus on Congress to come up with a solution, but a tweet he posted Tuesday night suggested that he could step in.
“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” he wrote.
What about DACA recipients who are in the military or law enforcement?
There have been no exceptions to the ruling announced.
What happens to DACA recipients now?
Anyone who has a DACA permit that expires between now and March 5, 2018, can apply for a renewal by Oct. 5. Anyone who’s DACA permit expires after March 5, 2018, will have their protected status end as early as March 6, 2018.
Applications for DACA permits received by Sept. 5 are still going to be processed, but any new applications received after that date will not be considered.
Does the government have DACA recipients’ information?
Enrollees had to share personal details with immigration officials on their applications, including names, addresses, addresses of places of employment, and other information.
Will the government target DACA recipients for deportation?
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that DACA recipients are “not a targeted priority. But the goal here is that Congress actually fixes the problem, and then that isn’t an issue.”
“They are not targets — they are certainly not priority targets of this administration. They weren’t before, and they won’t be now,” she said.
Are they expected to deport themselves?
Talking points distributed by the Trump administration on Tuesday urge DACA recipients to “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”
The missive came in a document obtained by ABC News that was provided to members of Congress in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s decision.
“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,” the document reads.
How will this impact the economy?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a statement stressing their concern about those impacted leaving their jobs.
“With approximately 700,000 DACA recipients working for all sorts of businesses across the country, terminating their employment eligibility runs contrary to the president’s goal of growing the U.S. economy,” Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Neil Bradley said in the group’s statement.
Sessions said in his announcement that allowing DACA recipients to remain in the country denies “jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”