PHOENIX (AP) — The program that protects young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas has been rescinded. But many questions remain about what will happen to the program’s beneficiaries.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, will end in six months to give Congress time to find a legislative solution for the immigrants.
Here’s a look at the program and what happens next for the nearly 800,000 people in it who are allowed to work in the U.S. and receive protection from deportation.
WHAT IS DACA?
DACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 after intense pressure from immigrant advocates who wanted protections for the young immigrants who were mostly raised in the U.S. but lacked legal status.
The program protects them from deportation — granting them a two-year reprieve that can be extended and by issuing them a work permit and a social security number.
DACA recipients must have no criminal record, proof they were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and be under 31 when the program was launched but at least 15 years old when applying.
The application cost is nearly $500 and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process take several weeks.
DACA does not give beneficiaries legal U.S. residency. Recipients get temporary reprieves from deportation and permission to temporarily work.
Frustration grew during the Obama administration over repeated failures to pass the “Dream Act,” which would have provided a path to legal U.S. citizenship for the young immigrants who ended up becoming DACA beneficiaries and became known as “dreamers.”
The last major attempt to pass the legislation was in 2011.
Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience in an effort to push Obama to act after Congress did not pass legislation. DACA is different than the Dream Act because it does not provide a pathway to legal residency or citizenship.
WHY END DACA?
President Donald Trump was under pressure from several states that threatened to sue his administration if it did not end DACA.
They argued the order Obama issued creating the program was unconstitutional and that Congress should take charge of legislation dealing the issue.
Immigrant advocates, business leaders including the chief executives of Apple and Microsoft, clergy and many others put intense pressure on Trump to maintain the program but he decided to end it.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Young immigrants already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire.
If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5.
If their permits expire beyond that March date, they will not be able to renew and could be subject to deportation when their permits expire.
People who miss the October deadline will be disqualified from renewing their permission to remain in the country and could face deportation, although the Trump administration has said it will not actively provide their information to immigration authorities.
It will be up to Congress to take up and pass legislation helping DACA beneficiaries. One bill introduced this year would provide a path to legal permanent residency.
Many DACA beneficiaries say they worry they will be forced to take lower-wage, under-the-table jobs and will be unable to pay for college or assist their families financially.