On Sept. 4, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions announced the Trump administration’s intent to end a program begun five years earlier by President Obama called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The change will affect 800,000 undocumented aliens, including about 42,000 New York State residents.
Often referred to as Dreamers, DACA program participants are young people (currently 35 or younger) who were brought to the United States as children. After passing criminal background checks, they were afforded prosecutorial discretion to avoid deportation by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its immigration enforcement efforts. Notably, the program did not confer any substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship to its beneficiaries.
Sessions said Obama exceeded his executive authority when he created DACA. But President Donald Trump has expressed sympathy for Dreamers. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” he wrote on Twitter 10 days after Session’s announcement. He has called for a legislative solution.
Jan. 9, 2018 was an important day for Dreamers. A federal judge in California, William Alsup, issued an injunction ordering DACA to remain in effect while a legal challenge to ending the program proceeds. The same day, Trump met with Congressional leaders to discuss legislative remedies and appeared to abandon a prior call that any bill to protect Dreamers must also contain funding for building a wall on the border with Mexico.