The Trump administration announced today, September 5, 2017, that it will terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and placed the responsibility on Congress to find a legislative solution for those affected.

The DACA program was created by executive action under the Obama administration to protect young illegal immigrants who arrived to the United  States as children and met certain criteria from deportation, and enable them to receive temporary permits for work and study.  It is estimated that approximately 800,000 individuals received DACA benefits and may be impacted by the termination of the program.

The Trump administration announced that it will phase out the program over the next six (6) months instead of terminating it outright, and will no longer accept new applications for DACA after today.  Applications submitted prior to September 5, 2017, will continue to be processed, and no one’s DACA status will be revoked before it expires.  Anyone who has a DACA permit set to expire prior to March 5, 2018, can still apply for renewal, but these applications must be received prior to October 5, 2017.  Those who have permits set to expire after March 5, 2018, will not be eligible to renew their DACA permits, meaning that legal status for some immigrants may end as soon as March 6, 2018.

If no legislative solution is enacted, the approximately 800,000 DACA recipients will lose their status and will become immediately deportable.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stated that no specific guidance would be issued to agents to shield DACA recipients from deportation, meaning they will not be afforded any special protection from deportation.  This is particularly concerning for DACA holders since they were required to provide DHS with biographic, contact, and living information as part of the application process, though DHS has stated that the information will not be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless “there’s a significant law enforcement or national security interest.”  DHS has stated it intends to issue formal guidelines on how DACA recipients and their information will be treated upon the termination of the program.

Additionally, DACA recipients will lose their work authorization if no legislative solution is enacted.  This would mean that upon expiration of their status, individuals would no longer be able to work legally, and their employers could face civil and criminal liability if they continue to employ them.  Employers should begin reviewing their workforce and consult with an immigration attorney to see if any alternative solutions are available to their affected workers prior to the termination of their status.

Relatedly, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) will be holding a news conference today to discuss their bipartisan DREAM Act, which was introduced on July 20, 2017, and looks to provide the legislative solution DACA recipients are desperately hoping for.

For additional information regarding this or any related area of law, please call (812) 423-3183.

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