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‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for Now, but Long-Term Fate Is Unclear

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Originally published by NY Times

President Trump will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children, according to new memorandums issued by the administration Thursday night.

But White House officials said Friday morning that Mr. Trump had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them.

The Department of Homeland Security announced that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits so they can find legal employment.

A fact sheet posted on the department’s website says immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “will continue to be eligible” to renew every two years and notes that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”

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A news release from the department said flatly that “the June 15, 2012, memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”

But officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security said Friday morning that those statements were intended only to clarify that immigrants enrolled in the DACA program would not immediately be affected by a separate action officially ending a similar program for the parents of those immigrants.

“There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the department. He added that John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”

Immigration rights activists, who have fiercely battled Mr. Trump’s travel ban and increased enforcement of other immigration laws, initially hailed the announcement, calling it a surprising turn of events from Mr. Trump.

“This is a big victory for Dreamers amid months of draconian and meanspirited immigration enforcement policy,” said David Leopold, an immigration lawyer. “The preservation of DACA is a tribute to the strength of the Dreamer movement.”

But after the White House clarified its intent, activists expressed regret. Mr. Leopold said in a second statement that “it’s no surprise that Trump would quickly walk back the preservation of DACA.” He added that the administration was trying to “cynically pit 800,000 Dreamers against the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants.”

Cecilia Muñoz, who served as the head of former President Barack Obama’s domestic policy council and oversaw immigration policy for the White House, said, “It is unfortunate that their status is still temporary, and their peace of mind not complete.”

A decision to maintain the DACA program would be a reversal from Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant language during the campaign and would disappoint some of the president’s most ardent supporters, who view the program started by Mr. Obama as an illegal grant of amnesty.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly agreed with that sentiment. At one rally last summer, Mr. Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the program, saying that Mr. Obama had “defied federal law and the Constitution.”

But once in office, Mr. Trump faced a new reality: the political risks of targeting for deportation a group of people who are viewed sympathetically by many Americans. In some cases, the immigrants did not know they were in the country illegally. Many attended American schools from the time they were in kindergarten.

Asked repeatedly about his intentions for the program since he took office, the president has hinted that he would not try to deport the Dreamers. But immigration activists had remained worried that the administration might still eliminate the program.

The announcement that the DACA program will continue for the time being, a decision that affects about 800,000 people in the United States, came as the administration formally ended Mr. Obama’s attempt to expand it to also cover the parents of the Dreamers.

In 2015, Mr. Obama proposed an expansion of the program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could have shielded as many as five million people from deportation and provided work permits to them as well.

That program was never put in place because a Texas court blocked it at the request of a coalition of 26 state attorneys general. The Supreme Court deadlocked, 4-4, on a challenge to that ruling, but the decision by the Trump administration officially ends the litigation.

Read more: www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/us/politics/trump-will-allow-dreamers-to-stay-in-us-reversing-campaign-promise.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

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