Politico broke the news earlier today that President Donald Trump has decided to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which had provided deportation protection and employment authorization for registered undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. The program had been implemented by the Obama administration in 2012, and enjoys broad popularity in the United States.
Trump had promised to end DACA on the campaign trail, but had been flip-flopping on the issue since his inauguration. However, facing threats from the attorneys general of ten Republican states, Trump now appears to have decided to eliminate the DACA program, throwing the fate of nearly 800,000 so-called “Dreamers” — including at least 18,000 Dreamers from Asian countries — into question.
Immigration activists have spent the last week launching a nationwide campaign to attempt to save DACA (broadly referred to as #DefendDACA), as well as TPS — a program that protects undocumented immigrants from deportation to countries where they would face imminent physical danger if returned. One such group is NAKASEC, which earlier this month launched a 22-day, 24hr vigil in front of the White House to protect DACA and Asian American Dreamers registered under the program, as well as to protect TPS. (A live feed of the White House action can be viewed between 10am and 8pm EST here.)
Asian American advocacy group, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), is currently one week into a marathon 22-day vigil in front of the White House. Activists with NAKASEC are protesting Republican efforts to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) programs, two programs that grant protection from deportation and offers work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants.
DACA was implemented in 2012 as a program to provide protection for undocumented immigrants who are current (or recently graduated) students, who have no criminal history, and who who were brought to the United States as young children. Undocumented immigrants registered under DACA — known colloquially as Dreamers — were raised knowing only America as their home. Yet, without deportation protection, they are at-risk of being detained and removed by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a totally unfamiliar country. TPS is a program that provides deportation relief for undocumented immigrants whose lives would be at risk due to war or environmental catastrophe if they were returned to their countries of origin; currently, TPS covers undocumented immigrants from El Savador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
In a surprise announcement on the 5th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Trump administration announced yesterday that it would reverse one of the president’s campaign promises and would instead continue the popular federal program. Founded in 2012, DACA granted renewable permits to undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the United States as children, protecting them from deportation and allowing them to work.
However, yesterday also saw U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly sign a memorandum to roll back a program proposed by the Obama administration in 2014 called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). DAPA was intended to provide legal protections for the undocumented parents of American citizens or residents in an effort to not break up immigrant families. That program was never put into place due to legal challenges in federal court filed by 26 states led by Republican governors.
In January, Trump was quoted as saying about undocumented immigrants, “They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” However, it is clear by yesterday’s dual announcements that the Trump administration is less interested in “taking care of everybody”, and more interested in taking care of Trump’s approval rating.