Immigrants who were undocumented before President Obama instituted the 2012 program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are understandably shocked that, following Donald J. Trump's election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced it will end DACA altogether.
DACA recipients were young when they were brought to the United States without official permission (most often by parents). In recognition of their lack of intent, and the degree to which they had become part of American society, the program afforded them a temporary right to live, study, and work legally here. But it never provided any higher status than a postponement of deportation.
What's more, in order to apply for DACA, they had to supply their names, addresses, fingerprints, and more; in short, providing DHS with all the information it would need in order to find and deport them if the DACA program were ever terminated. No wonder there is widespread concern in response to the announcement of the impending termination.
The U.S. government has provided a phaseout plan, such that the close of the program should not mean immediate deportations. Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke states that the goal is to "wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation." (Also see Duke's September 5, 2017 memorandum for details.)
For people who already have orders of deportation on their record, however, the risks may be higher, as discussed below.
Certainly nothing the U.S. government has stated suggests any plans to dig into those files in the short term and start deportations.
What they do plan to do over the short term is:
The short of it is that current DACA recipients can rightfully continue to live in the U.S. and keep their jobs. Whether they can do so safely is another matter. Obviously, they should avoid arrest or contact with law enforcement; even people with DACA can be (and have been) deported for virtually any violation of criminal or immigration laws.
The fate of current DACA holders after this transition period is over depends in large part on the U.S. Congress. It has, for a number of years been batting around ideas for immigration reform, and various proposals are currently on the table. Supposedly, DACA's ending was meant in part to pressure Congress to finally pass new legislation, and to do so within a few months.
If Congress fails to pass legislation dealing with the situation of DACA recipients, then it is possible DHS will begin deportations--but certainly not without public outcry.
Plenty of members of Congress, as well as immigration advocates, are aware of the unfairness of asking people to report their existence to the U.S. government and pay for a work permit, only to later be rounded up and forced to leave the only country they have ever really known.
Again, however, the situation is likely to be most difficult for those who were already placed into deportation (removal) proceedings and subsequently ordered deported. Some of them received DACA, which momentarily protected them from being removed per that order. But U.S. immigration authorities have the power to act immediately on an outstanding order of deportation, without further hearings or process. If this could be an issue for you, definitely speak with an experienced immigration attorney well before your DACA grant expires.