August 29 2017

The future for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as infants or young children — is under a cloud of uncertainty as the Trump Administration is on the verge of deciding whether to continue the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows Dreamers to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Earlier this summer, ten states’ attorneys general and one governor issued an ultimatum saying they would seek to challenge DACA’s legality if it isn’t rescinded by Labor Day. The Trump Administration has so far chosen not to dismiss the challenge in any statement. Therefore, it seems very likely that the President will not make an effort to defend DACA in court.

This leaves us with three potential paths the president might take:

1)  Immediately end DACA and revoke all current work permits. This would cause chaos for the more than 420,000 people in California enrolled in DACA and 800,000 people nationwide. An immediate termination of DACA would be worthy of a public uproar and have a devastating impact on people’s livelihoods. It would be disruptive to our economy, which depends on the skills and talents that Dreamers bring to the workplace and to the communities that they contribute to every day. Such draconian action would also generate criticism from a number of Republicans in Congress, who are sympathetic to the Dreamers’ cause.

2) Instruct the Justice Department to stop defending DACA in court. This option could let Trump sidestep taking a position on DACA and allow others, such as legal advocacy organizations or one or more of the 20 pro-DACA attorneys general like California’s Xavier Becerra, to step in and defend the program. This would likely tie up DACA in litigation for years, during which time the program might continue, and could actually end up prevailing in court.

3) Phase out the program. President Trump could allow people currently enrolled in DACA to keep their work permits until they expire while rejecting any renewals or new applications. This could be the most appealing option for Trump, as it would allow him to appeal to his anti-immigrant base while making the case that it’s a “more humane” and gradual process that gives people time to plan.  However, a phase-out would simply be a slow-walk version of the option one above, resulting in thousands of Dreamers being kicked off of DACA every month until eventually all 800,000 lose their temporary relief.

Regardless of the option President Trump chooses, the pressure on Congress to act will continue to mount, especially if Trump moves to end DACA. Only an act of Congress will provide a permanent resolution for Dreamers, unlike DACA which is a policy subject to the whim of the president and vulnerable to judicial challenge. A bipartisan Dream Act has already been introduced in both chambers to provide relief to the same population of young immigrants that DACA was created to help. If this succeeds, Dreamers will finally have the security to live and work in the only land they know as home.

Click here to learn about your options should DACA be discontinued.