Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Trump Rescinding DACA Program Protecting Young Immigrants

Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a statement at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Susan Walsh / Associated Press
Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a statement at the Justice Department in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Trump Rescinding DACA Program Protecting Young Immigrants
Trump Rescinding DACA Program Protecting Young Immigrants GUEST:Ginger Jacobs, immigration attorney, Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP

Our top story, the news that many immigrants have them been embracing for since election of President President Donald Trump, and today it happened. A program that allowed young people brought to this country as children, to receive temporary deferral from deportation, to be able to seek higher education and work legally has been rescinded. President Trump says the program will expire in six months and he says it is up to Congress to replace the policy with legislation. Joining me too discuss the legal ramifications of this phaseout of the DACA program is my guest, Ginger Jacobs, a San Diego immigration attorney and advisory board member of the immigration rights Consortium. Welcome to the program.Thank you very much, Maureen.There are many estimated 800,000 recipients, 200,000 in California. Is this announcement today change anything for those recipients right away?There should be no immediate impact, except for one limited one, which is up until now, DACA recipients of have the ability to request and document called the -- advanced referral that allows them to leave the country and reenter the United States legally. That program is ending today in all applications will be canceled and filing fees return. That is one of the minor changes. In terms of the actual DACA program and work permits, that will be phased out. None of that is ending or being rescinded today.Many recipients have Social Security numbers, legal employment. Is that all going away in March if Congress does not act?It is not. DACA recipients have work permits and those permits are generally valid for a two your window. A doctor recipient may work until the end of their work permit, until the work permit expiration date. And other words, last week we received a whole bunch of renewal approvals. Those folks have DACA until mid-2019. Today's order does not do anything to affect that. Those folks will still be able to continue working legally until the work permits expire.Other protections dreamers have in California that they will still have without the federal DACA program?There are certain benefits they have here, but not protections from deportation. In California, any undocumented person is able to apply for and obtain a driver's license, just not the case in many states. Also in California, certain graduates from California high schools, who are undocumented, can receive in-state tuition and apply for state funded financially, not federal financial aid but California financially. Those benefits will continue. But those don't provide anybody relief from deportation.What did we learn in today's statement about the threat of deportation for DACA recipients?I read the FAQs and random carefully -- member and carefully. The department of homeland security is saying they will not use information Dak applicant submitted to go after them for deportation unless the person has a criminal conviction or is otherwise deemed to be a high priority for deportation. For example hang members, someone a threat to national security. For the vast majority of recipients who have spotless criminal records, DHS is saying they will not use their information to go after them for immigration enforcement purposes. However if one's papers expire after March this year, and one is approached by an ice agent and has no papers and cannot put forward any DACA papers,.They essentially will be removable and subject to place in removal proceedings.Is there any grounds for a lawsuit against today's decision?The attorneys general of the state of Washington in York certainly think so. Both states have come forward saying they are going to sue the federal government. They have not yet articulated, at least that I have not seen, but the basis for the lawsuits will be but I would guess that the basis will be something along the lines of federal entitlement violation. Once you give somebody a benefit, once the government gives a benefit there has to be due process procedure in order to take that benefit away. My best guess is those are the lines along which the states of New York and Washington are planning to sue.In announcing this phaseout of DACA, President Trump is calling on Congress to enact legislation to address the issue of these young immigrants. Doesn't the Trump administration have a point about the implementation of DACA through executive order? Shouldn't this happen -- have been done by the legislature to begin with?In an ideal world it would have been. President Obama, when he implemented DACA said because Congress has not acted, I am forced to implement this measure. Physically, even Obama, who initiated DACA, said this is Congress' job, Congress should be acting. However sadly, what we have seen for more than a decade, numbers of Congress have tried to push for DACA, I have been advocating for decade personally my immigration practice for over 15 years, going to Washington DC, meeting with Congress people, for the dream act to be more specific. Congress has not passed it. To say Congress will take care of it the next six months, may be very unrealistic.What are you telling your decade clients and families today?The first thing I'm telling them not to panic. This is today's announcement. We have seen with other announcements for the president however -- for example the travel ban is that there have been subsequent modifications. Just because this is the policy today does that mean this will continue to be the policy in the coming weeks and months. There may also be modifications to this policy as a result of the lawsuits we talked about coming out of New York and Washington. I am also telling them their work permits are not going to be canceled or rescinded immediately. There is still a limited period, a one-month period in which folks can apply for renewal if there DACA status is going to expire before March of 2018. Encouraging folks to renew. I'm also encouraging folks to lift their voices, to speak out and fight for the dream act or four other more permanent legislation that would help them regularize their status on less than a temporary basis.I've been speaking with Sandy immigration attorney Ginger Jacobs. Thank you.Thank you.

UPDATE: 12:10 p.m., Sept. 5, 2017

Former President Barack Obama released a statement on Facebook reacting to President Trump's decision to phase out DACA.


In the statement Obama said the following:

"Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license."

Read his full statement here.

Read original story below.


President Donald Trump on Tuesday began dismantling Barack Obama's program protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, declaring he loves the "dreamers" who could face deportation but insisting it's up to Congress, not him, to address their plight.

Trump didn't specify what he wanted done, essentially sending a six-month time bomb to his fellow Republicans in Congress who have no consensus on how to defuse it.

The president tried to have it both ways with his compromise plan: fulfilling his campaign promise to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, while at the same time showing compassion for those who would lose deportation protection and the ability to work legally in the U.S. New applications will be rejected and the program will be formally rescinded, but the administration will continue to renew existing two-year work permits for the next six months, giving Congress time to act.

"I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly," Trump told reporters.

Yet at the same time, the White House distributed talking points to members of Congress that included a dark warning: "The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States."

WATCH: AG Sessions discusses rollback of DACA

Although Trump's announcement had been anticipated in recent days, it still left young people covered by the DACA program reeling.

"You just feel like you are empty," said a sobbing Paola Martinez, 23, who came to the U.S. from Colombia and recently graduated with a civil engineering degree from Florida International University.

"I honestly can't even process it right now," said Karen Marin, an immigrant from Mexico, who was in a physics class at Bronx Community College when the news broke. "I'm still trying to get myself together."

Their predicament now shifts to Congress, which has repeatedly tried — and failed — to pass immigration legislation.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would look to Congress to pass a "responsible immigration reform package" with money to control the border with Mexico and better protect American workers' jobs — along with protecting "dreamers."

RELATED: San Diego DACA Recipients, Supporters Brace For President’s Decision

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said if Trump truly wants a comprehensive immigration reform package, including a solution for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, he's certain to be disappointed. Congress tried that and failed in 2013, and GOP leaders immediately ruled it out Tuesday.

"Guaranteed failure," Cornyn said.

If the goal is a more incremental package that combines a solution for the "dreamers" with steps such as visa reforms and enhanced border security, "there may be a deal to be had," Cornyn said.

Sanders' blunt warning to lawmakers skeptical they can come up with a plan: "If they can't, then they should get out of the way and let somebody else take their job that can actually get something done."

The DACA program was created by former President Obama by executive action in 2012, when it became clear Congress would not act to address the young immigrants' plight in legislation that was dubbed the "Dream Act." Trump ran his campaign as an immigration-hard liner, labeling DACA as illegal "amnesty" and pledging to repeal it immediately. But he shifted his approach after the election, expressing sympathy for the "dreamers," many of whom were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were very young and have no memories of the counties where they were born . Trump's aides painted his move to gradually phase out the program as the best of bad options: State officials had threatened a lawsuit if he did not act by Tuesday to repeal the program, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S. in the form of two-year, renewable work permits.

Statement from President Donald J. Trump
President Donald Trump released this statement on the decision to end the DACA program.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

"In effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act," Trump said. He said he was not in favor of punishing children for the actions of their parents, but he added, "Young Americans have dreams, too."

Lawmakers were trickling back to the Capitol Tuesday from a summer recess and already are confronting a daunting to-do list including a relief package for Hurricane Harvey victims and a pressing need to raise the federal borrowing limit. Some GOP lawmakers and aides are discussing the possibility of a bipartisan immigration package, including a solution for the dreamers, money for border security and enforcement, and perhaps other items like changes to some visa programs.

A stand-alone bill addressing just the "dreamers" seems unlikely to pass the House, given the firm stance of many conservatives. And it's unclear whether Trump would sign it anyway.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he hoped the "House and Senate, with the president's leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."

Under the phase-out plan announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Homeland Security was halting acceptance of new applications under DACA as of Tuesday. People with permits set to expire between now and March 5, 2018, will be able to re-apply as long as their applications are submitted by Oct. 5. Existing permits will remain in effect, and applications already in the pipeline will be processed.

That means the earliest that dreamers would begin to lose protections under the program would be next March.

Trump's action nonetheless drew swift criticism from immigration advocates, Democratic lawmakers and business and religious leaders who had urged Trump to spare the program.

Obama slammed the decision as "wrong," "self-defeating" and "cruel." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called it "a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America."

Some Republicans objected, too.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Trump was taking "the wrong approach," and he added: "The federal government has a responsibility to defend and secure our borders, but we must do so in a way that upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation."

RELATED: San Diego State Issues Statement In Support Of DACA

One bill addressing the issue that has received significant attention, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would allow young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship if they complete a list of requirements. The president, Graham declared, must "work the phones ... try and get a consensus here."

"From a Republican Party point of view, this is a defining moment," he said. Trump's announcement came the same day as a deadline set by Republican state officials who said they would challenge DACA in court unless the administration rescinded it.

Administration officials argued the program was on flimsy legal footing — and said that allowing the lawsuit to proceed would have thrown it into far more chaos than phasing it out. After Trump's announcement, attorneys general in New York and California said they were prepared to seek legal action against his decision.

The San Diego chapter of the International Rescue Committee will be holding a DACA informational session Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 5348 University Ave., Suite 205, San Diego, CA.