Trump delays effort to end protections for immigrant ‘Dreamers’

Instead, officials said that the administration would conduct a “comprehensive review” of the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, while it imposes new limits on the protections against deportation that have allowed about 650,000 immigrants to live and work in the country legally.

Immigrants who have already had DACA protections will be allowed to renew their status under the program for one year, rather than two, officials said. And they said that first-time applicants to the program would be rejected.

Officials declined to say how long the review would take or whether it would be completed before the general election in November, although the decision to allow one-year renewals suggested that Trump and his aides did not envision making another attempt to end the program before the vote.

The announcement appears to be directly contrary to an order by a federal judge, who ruled last month that the administration must immediately begin accepting new applications for the DACA program. Officials said they expected court challenges from immigration advocates, given the Supreme Court’s decision and the judge’s order.

The move ensures that the fate of immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children, often referred to as Dreamers, will be debated during the fall presidential campaign and will most likely be determined by the results. Polls show that a majority of the American public does not want them deported.

Trump’s promised assault on immigration, including a pledge to end the DACA program, was critical to his election victory in 2016 and became a central part of his administration’s agenda as he moved to keep out refugees and asylum-seekers, to build a wall across the southwestern border and to reduce legal immigration.

Trump’s initial move to end DACA in 2017 was blocked for more than two years by federal judges who said he had failed to provide proper justification for ending a program that allowed some young immigrants to live and work in the United States without the threat of deportation.

The Supreme Court agreed last month.

The president has long argued that DACA was an illegal use of executive authority by his predecessor. But he has long wavered about what should be done to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who benefit from it. On July 10, after the court’s decision, he offered a confusing set of remarks about his intentions.

“They’re going to be part of a much bigger bill on immigration,” he said of the DACA recipients in an interview with Noticias Telemundo. “It’s going to be a very big bill, a very good bill, and merit-based bill and it will include DACA, and I think people are going to be very happy.” He also said that it would “give them a road to citizenship.”

Thousands of young immigrants who have turned 15 since the original rescission — the minimum age required to apply — had expected the government to begin accepting new applications to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

However, the agency that processes DACA applications has been rejecting them, according to immigration lawyers, while it has continued to process renewals for current recipients.

Most legal scholars interpreted the ruling to mean that the original program had been revived and that, therefore, new applications must be accepted. An administration official said Tuesday that a new memo to be issued later in the day by the current acting secretary of Homeland Security would allow them to stop approving new applications.

Obama created the DACA program in 2012 after Congress refused to provide a permanent path to citizenship for the young immigrants. Most of the Dreamers are in many ways indistinguishable from the American citizens with whom they attended elementary, middle and high school.

The program has strict requirements. To be eligible, applicants have to show that they had committed no serious crimes, had arrived in the United States before they turned 16 and were no older than 30, had lived in the United States for at least the previous five years, and were in school, had graduated from high school or had received a General Educational Development certificate, or were honourably discharged from the military.

Trump has at times expressed sympathy for the immigrants who are protected by the program even as he denounced it as an illegal use of presidential authority.

In 2017, his hard line advisers — including Stephen Miller, the architect of his immigration agenda; Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist; and Jeff Sessions, his attorney general — urged him to end the DACA program, which at the time faced a legal challenge from several conservative attorneys general.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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