Trump to Unwind DACA Program That Protected Young Undocumented Immigrants

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 6, 2017

President Trump has ordered an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children from deportation. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for DACA, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants.

The administration set a March 5, 2018, deadline for Congress to act to preserve DACA's protections or grant these individuals some sort of permanent legal status before they begin losing their status. Once DACA begins to expire, undocumented workers who formerly were protected could be treated like any other person in the country illegally.

Dozens of business leaders from a host of major companies, including Apple, AT&T, Best Buy, Facebook and Google, had urged the Trump administration not to terminate the DACA program. On Twitter, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote, "250 of my Apple co-workers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values."

President Obama had introduced the DACA program in 2012 through an executive order. In order to be eligible for temporary permission to remain in the US (i.e. deferred action), individuals are required to demonstrate through verifiable documentation that they:

  • Came to the US under the age of 16;
  • Continuously resided in the US for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012, and were present in the US on that date;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate or are honorably discharged veterans;
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense or multiple misdemeanor offenses;
  • Do not pose a threat to national security; and
  • Are not above the age of 30.

The Obama administration had sought to expand DACA to give legal status to as many as 5 million residents, but the courts blocked that from taking effect.

In a statement explaining the Trump administration's move to end DACA, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said of President Obama's order, "This unilateral executive amnesty… denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens." Several state attorneys general in southern states had threatened to mount a legal challenge to DACA unless President Trump phased out the program.