The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue.
The decision, after weeks of intense deliberation between President Trump and his top advisers, represents a blow to hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “dreamers” who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. But it also allows the White House to shift some of the pressure and burden of determining their future onto Congress, setting up a public fight over their legal status that is likely to be waged for months.
In announcing the decision at the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that former president Barack Obama, who started the program in 2012 through executive action, “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.”
He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers. The agency said those enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018 will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5.
New applications and renewal requests already received by DHS before Tuesday will be reviewed and validated on a case-by-case basis, even those for permits that expire after March 5, officials said.