RELEASE: Five Things the Trump Administration Could Do Right Now if it Really Wants To Protect Dreamers, New CAP Column Spells Out

Washington, D.C. — In a new in-depth column out today, Center for American Progress vice president for Immigration Policy Tom Jawetz writes that as the dealmaking to find a permanent solution for Dreamers in time continues, there are “5 Things the Trump Administration Can Do Right Now To Protect Dreamers and Show Good Faith.”

Over the next four weeks, an average of 122 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients will lose protection every day. After March 5, that figure could increase ten-fold. When President Donald Trump ended DACA on September 5, he tweeted that if Congress failed to pass legislation within six months he would “revisit this issue!

“Assuming that promise—and his stated desire to protect Dreamers from deportation—are genuine, there are five things his administration could do right now to ameliorate the damage that already has been done and to prevent future harm, until a legislative fix is enacted,” Jawetz writes.

The five things are:

  1. Drop the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court: In response to the court order issued last month that allowed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to once more accept DACA renewal requests from DACA recipients whose protections already have expired and those whose protections soon will expire, the Trump administration rushed to seek a review directly in the U.S. Supreme Court.
  2. Restore DACA: The administration still could restore the DACA program by having Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen reissue the memorandum that created the program in the first place. A federal court in January issued a preliminary injunction based on its conclusion that “DACA was and remains a lawful exercise of authority by DHS.”
  3. Expedite the adjudication of pending DACA renewal applications: Nearly 19,000 young people have already lost DACA protections since September 5. An unknown number of additional DACA recipients with pending renewal requests also may have lost their status during this time or may soon lose their status. Historically, USCIS has advised applicants to apply for renewal between 150 and 120 days prior to the expiration of their DACA status. But because there was a period when USCIS was not accepting renewal applications, it is possible many thousands of young people whose protections are set to expire in just one month could lose DACA before their renewal requests are adjudicated.
  4. Automatically extend protections for current DACA recipients for 180 days: Because the tens of thousands of DACA recipients set to lose protections in the months after March 6 were only recently given permission to file for renewal, it is possible many or most of their applications will not be adjudicated before their current protections expire. If the administration is serious about protecting Dreamers while Congress hashes out legislation, USCIS should publish a notice in the Federal Register automatically extending protections, including work authorization, for DACA recipients whose protections are set to expire within the next 180 days.
  5. Issue guidance clarifying that Dreamers are not immigration enforcement priorities: DHS Secretary Nielsen last month suggested that if Congress fails to pass legislation protecting Dreamers, DACA recipients whose protections have expired will not be immigration enforcement priorities so long as they do not commit any crimes. But just last week, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested and detained a DACA recipient whose protections expired due to an error and who would very likely qualify for the path to citizenship described in the president’s own framework. The administration could issue clear guidance stating that Dreamers will not be treated as immigration enforcement priorities and that discretion will be used to prevent detention and deportation of young people who do not pose a danger to public safety.

“The Trump administration—without input from Congress—created this crisis by ending DACA,” Jawetz concludes. “While lawmakers work toward a durable solution, the administration should take the above actions to avoid further harm and establish some goodwill in the process.”

Read “5 Things the Trump Administration Can Do Right Now To Protect Dreamers and Show Good Faith” by Tom Jawetz.

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Elena Gaona at egaona@americanprogress.org or 202-478-6322.