The United States has ended a program that shielded nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation and allowed them to work and study in the country, Voice of America reports.
New applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, will no longer be accepted, administration officials said.
President Donald Trump approved the decision, but sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions before news cameras Tuesday to announce the controversial policy change. Demonstrators opposed to the administration’s decision massed in Washington and other cities beforehand, but there were no confrontations.
“DACA is being rescinded,” Sessions announced. The action revoked President Barack Obama’s five-year-old administrative program.
The future status of the hundreds of thousands of young, foreign-born students and workers is unclear for now, since they are no longer protected from summary deportation by the DACA program. Congress will have six months to act if it wants to continue to allow them to remain in the United States.
The young immigrants typically entered the United States as young children. Many trace their heritage to Mexico or Central American countries, but some arrived so young that they have grown up knowing nothing other than American society and customs.
Anyone who joined the “deferred action” program for work and study was required to have and maintain a clean criminal record. DACA did not promise participants citizenship or permanent U.S. residency, instead promising a reprieve from deportation. The program was initially intended as a stop-gap measure to protect aspiring young immigrants, while Congress was to come up with a more lasting solution to their problems.
“I have a love for these people,” Trump said at the White House late Tuesday, “and, hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.”
Earlier, he had issued a written statement declaring that federal immigration patrols would not make seeking out DACA recipients for detention and deportation a priority issue.
Former President Obama, who has refrained from commenting on most of the policy changes Trump has enacted this year, spoke out strongly against ending the DACA program, and said the current administration was carrying out a purely political decision and targeting young people who “have done nothing wrong.”
Obama said ending DACA was “self-defeating” and “cruel,” whether considered in political, economic or moral terms, “because [the young immigrants] want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love.”
Once current DACA status expires for current recipients, they could be subject to deportation proceedings if detained, but government officials said no current beneficiaries would be affected before March 5, 2018. DACA recipients whose permits expire before that date will be allowed to renew their status, but they must act within one month. DHS officials said no other renewal requests would be considered and all new applications will be rejected.