U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Tuesday morning that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would “wind down” over the next six months, preempting a lawsuit from 10 states that argued the policy is an unconstitutional use of executive authority.
President Donald Trump said he wants Congress to pick up the responsibility for pushing through DACA-related legislation, which permits nearly 800,000 immigrants to work and receive some public benefits.
“I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” Trump told the press Tuesday afternoon. “And I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right. ... Long-term, it's going to be the right solution.”
But what does this six-month “wind down” of DACA look like? And without a clear plan from Congress, what will life for DACA recipients look like after six months?
Most immediately, there will no longer be any new applications for DACA. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security says current DACA recipients will be permitted to work until their deferred action and employment authorization documents expire. Finally, DACA recipients will no longer be able to submit applications to travel internationally and be readmitted into the United States.
DACA recipients with permits expiring between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, wishing to renew their benefits have until October 5 to submit their requests.
Once DACA permits expire, the White House said DACA recipients will not be a priority for deportation. However, DHS also says that current policies and guidance related to the priorities for deportation are subject to modification at any time without notice.
There are still several unknowns.
The fate of DACA recipients who serve in the U.S. military has yet to be determined. So far, the executive branch has not suggested they will get special treatment.
When White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked how DACA enrollees who serve in the military will be affected, she pivoted to saying the decision lies with Congress.
“This is something that needs to be fixed legislatively, and we have confidence that they’re going to do that,” she said. “And we stand ready and willing to work with them in order to accomplish responsible immigration reform, and that would include — DACA is certainly part of that process.”
In addition, the path toward a congressional solution to the rescinding of DACA via passage of the DREAM Act could be a difficult one. While several Republicans are now approaching deferred action as a bipartisan issue, immigration legislation has typically been difficult to pass in Congress. In particular, several versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced in Congress over the past 16 years.
During Tuesday's press briefing, Sanders repeatedly referred to the Trump administration's goal to achieve “responsible immigration reform.” However, despite calls for reform, the Trump administration has not helped introduce a bill to shepherd in DACA through the legislative branch. And it's unclear whether the Trump administration is currently pursuing or endorsing any legislation related to the policies.
One of the biggest unknowns is: How will the United States prioritize DACA recipients whose permits expire? After DACA permits expire, immigrants who were part of the program will no longer be considered lawful residents. While they aren't the current priority for deportation, as previously stated, DHS could change their policy at any time without notice.