President Donald Trump will let immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. illegally but received protected status under an Obama administration program to remain in the country, stepping back from his campaign vow to deport so-called Dreamers.
Those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, “will continue to be eligible” to renew their status every two years, shielding them from deportation proceedings and allowing them to receive work permits, the Department of Homeland Security announced late Thursday night. The administration won’t act to terminate current work permits prior to their expiration dates.
Hundreds of thousands of early enrollees in the program were facing uncertainty about their future status. Some 512,000 unauthorized immigrants could be eligible to renew their benefits in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to a Pew Research analysis.
Trump paired the action with an announcement it is withdrawing a second Obama-era program that would have protected from deportation as many as five million additional undocumented immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens. That program never took effect after a Texas court blocked it.
The Homeland Security notice stands in contrast to the president’s campaign trail statements. In an August speech in Phoenix, Trump said Obama’s actions “defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty” to undocumented immigrants.
But since winning election, the president has softened his stance on those brought to the U.S. as children, dubbed by supporters as “Dreamers” after a failed legislative proposal that would have provided them a path to permanent legal residency. President Barack Obama personally lobbied Trump to keep the policy in place during their Oval Office meeting shortly after the election.
In an April interview with the Associated Press, Trump said those in the program could “rest easy” because “this is a case of heart.” The government, he said, was “not [going] after the ‘dreamers,’ we are after the criminals.”
Lee Francis Cissna, the president’s pick to run the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told senators at his confirmation hearing that the administration intended to keep the policy in place.
“If confirmed, I would see my role to administer that program well, as it stands,” he said.
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