When Donald Trump was elected president on November 8, 2016, many non-profits serving immigrants stopped filing new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants undocumented youth temporary work authorization as well as protection from deportation. President Trump had said more than thirty times during his campaign that he would end DACA on his “first day in office.” Of all of his promises, this one seemed written in stone. Trump declared that President Obama’s executive order on immigration was unconstitutional and he said he would use his pen to sign an order rescinding it immediately upon taking office.
President Trump used his pen to sign many executive orders in the first weeks of his new term. Many of his orders were enjoined by the Federal Courts. A “draft” of an order rescinding DACA was leaked to the press in the second week of his term, but it was never finalized or signed. While Trump never said anything definitive about the future of DACA, he did say after taking office that he was considering different alternatives for those already in the program.
Several non-profits resumed filing first-time DACA applications again when Trump failed to act. Last month, I informally surveyed non-profit legal service groups in the region and found that only one group was still not helping people apply for DACA. The reasons groups gave for resuming work on these cases focused primarily on Trump’s apparent decision not to end the program, at least in the short-run. Some indicated that Trump’s statement at a February 16 press conference may hint that those already in the DACA program may be eligible for some new form of immigration relief to be created in some future unspecified executive order. Here is what Trump said in response to a question about whether he would end DACA:
“We’re gonna show great heart, DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids…We’re gonna deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is — is right. I’m not talking about new laws, I’m talking the existing law, is very rough, it’s very, very rough.”
The groups I surveyed said that while they saw no added danger for people renewing DACA, they did counsel first-time applicants that the program could be rescinded at any time, and that if it is, the Department of Homeland Security will have their contact information. So, at least for now, both CARECEN and Catholic Charities on Long Island are filing DACA new applications.