WASHINGTON -- Five years after President Barack Obama put the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in place, the Trump administration has officially announced it will continue the program that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
As a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to eliminate DACA. But as he learned more about it as president he changed his tone, saying it's something he will handle with "great heart."
The Homeland Security Department announced the decision to keep DACA in place on Thursday in a memo posted on their website, but they say they will rescind the never implemented Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA.
DAPA was intended to protect parents whose children are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. The program, however, was never put in place. That's because it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas after 26 states sued, claiming President Obama overstepped his authority by protecting a specific class of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
But DACA recipients, known as the "dreamers," may stay. Many have lived in the United States since they were very young and have little to no recollection of their birth countries. DACA allows these young, undocumented immigrants to obtain work permits and drivers licenses, and protects them from deportation.
The program does not, however, provide them citizenship and they must renew their DACA status every two years and prove they are in good legal standing. Some recipients have lost their DACA protection after being arrested for crimes.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, issued the following statement after yesterday's decision:
"Today, we received the unfortunate news that DHS Secretary John Kelly, after consulting Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has rescinded the Obama era memoranda known as DAPA, which provided protection from deportation for parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents. While Dreamers remain protected under DACA it is of little comfort to children whose parents are now at risk of being deported from this country."
"We are reaching out to the White House and to the Department of Homeland Security to express our concern and to offer to help the administration find an alternative solution that will provide Dreamers and their parents with the security promised to them by then President-elect Donald Trump in December of 2016. At that time, we were heartened to hear his promise 'to work something out for Dreamers,' and we are hopeful that sentiment persists."
The DACA program impacts around 800,000 young immigrants in the United States. In April, President Trump told the Associated Press (ITALICS) his administration is "not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals."