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Program to protect young immigrants in danger

  • Homeland Security chief John Kelly testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. ap file photo



Associated Press
Friday, June 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Friday it still has not decided the fate of a program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, despite a statement a day earlier that the program will continue.

The mixed signals reflect the political sensitivities behind the Obama administration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. As a candidate who put tough immigration policies at the core of his campaign, Donald Trump denounced the program as an “illegal amnesty” and said he would immediately end it.

Since taking office, Trump has expressed empathy for the participants often called “dreamers,” many of whom have no memory of living anywhere but the United States. Cancelling the program could mean trying to deport more than 787,000 people who identified themselves to the government in exchange for temporary protection.

The Homeland Security Department said Thursday that the program would “remain in effect.”

Following news reports that the DACA program would continue, and reactions on both sides of the immigration debate, administration officials said Friday afternoon that no final decision had been made.

“The future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the administration,” Jonathan Hoffman, an assistant secretary for public affairs at Homeland Security, said in a statement. He added that while only Congress can decide the fate of these immigrants, Trump said the issue needs to be handled “with compassion and with heart.”

DACA was intended to be a stopgap measure to protect young immigrants while Congress worked on a broader immigration overhaul. Such legislation has not materialized.

While DACA doesn’t offer a legal immigration status, a path to citizenship and or any permanent protections, it does provide approved immigrants with a valuable work permit good for two years at a time. The protections are revocable at any time if an immigrant runs afoul of the law or becomes a threat to public safety or national security.

Trump has made immigration enforcement a top priority and has vowed to continue a crackdown on those living in the U.S. illegally or trying to sneak into the country. Arrests of immigrants inside the U.S. have increased under the Trump administration, but deportations are slightly down as fewer people have been caught crossing the Mexican border into the United States illegally.

DACA has been the greatest exception to Trump’s tough approach on immigration. In an Associated Press interview in April, Trump said his administration is “not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals” and said, “The dreamers should rest easy.”

Continuation of the DACA program had won widespread praise from critics of Trump’s approach to immigration.