Answers from Our DACA Expert
NILC’s immigration policy advocate answers the questions she’s been asked most often during Trump’s first month in office
THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ignacia Rodriguez, NILC immigration policy advocate
FEBRUARY 23, 2017
What’s going to happen with DACA?
The truth is, nobody knows. During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would end DACA if he were elected president. Unsubstantiated rumors circulated that he would end DACA on the day he was inaugurated, but that didn’t happen. Then rumors circulated that DACA would end his first week in office, but that didn’t happen either.
We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re preparing for all possible scenarios, including the scenario in which DACA ends.
Here’s a list of some recent comments made by the Trump administration about DACA:
During a press conference on Feb. 16, Trump was asked about DACA. He didn’t provide a straight answer but said it was a very difficult decision, and he added that he loves these “kids” and finds the existing laws to be rough.
On Feb. 7, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked about DACA and said this: “I’ve said before the president will have further updates on both DACA and DAPA very shortly. We’ve been very clear on immigration—what the president’s priorities would be. As you heard [Dept. of Homeland Security] Secretary [John] Kelly testify in front of Congress today, there is going to be continued progress on the wall and on immigration as a whole. So we’re going to have plenty of time to address this.”
Also on Feb. 7, Kelly himself was asked about DACA during a hearing and said, “If I could, on a couple of your other points, on — on the illegals and whatnot, the DACA individuals … I’ve sworn to uphold the law, so I have to uphold the law. I would just beg you, as a lawmaker, if it’s bad law, change the law, so I can take that particular issue off the plate.”
Basically, Kelly was asking Congress to act so that he doesn’t have to.
On Jan. 25, Trump was asked about DACA during an interview with ABC News, and his response was, “We’ll be coming out with a policy on that over the next period of four weeks. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.” He also promised to “have” a “strong” and “solid” border. But, he said, “Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.”
In Dec. 2016, Trump said that his administration was going to “work something out” for “Dreamers.” He told Time Magazine, “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”
So how do we interpret all these messages? Some people believe that the backlash and judicial action against the administration’s refugee and Muslim ban may have made Trump think twice about continuing his immigration-related plans. Some believe he has softened his stance on immigration only when it comes to “dreamers.”
There are reports of conflict within the administration over what to do with DACA and about attempts to end DACA without Trump’s intervention, such as through implementing the administration’s new internal (i.e., inside-the-country vs. at-the-border) enforcement policies, possible litigation challenging DACA, etc. Those are all possibilities, but the truth is we really don’t know, and we certainly don’t want to be caught guard if the administration does take action against DACA.
What is clear is that the Trump administration has never said that it does not plan to take any action on DACA, which means that the option to end DACA is still on the table. So we must prepare for that possibility.
Based on these comments, I’m not sure anymore that the Trump administration is planning to end the DACA program. What should I be preparing for?
We recommend preparing for all possible scenarios including, but not limited to:
- Scenario 1: DACA ends, but people who have DACA can keep it and their work permit until it expires (the scenario experts agree is most likely to happen if action is taken on DACA).
- Scenario 2: DACA ends, and previously issued DACA and work permits are immediately invalidated.
- Scenario 3: DACA continues, and we have no idea what the administration plans to do, ultimately, with the program (the scenario we are currently in).
- Scenario 4: DACA continues, and we have an affirmative promise by the administration that it will not end DACA.
We also recommend preparing for the following possibilities:
- The possibility that DACA applicants’ information will be shared with ICE. An executive order that Trump signed on Jan. 25 had the effect of terminating immigration enforcement priorities that DHS established in 2014, thus drastically broadening the category of people now considered priorities for deportation. So a person could have applied for and received DACA but still be at risk now of being deported because of the new enforcement “nonpriorities” (since the Jan. 25 order essentially says “just about everyone’s a priority now”). For example, a person who has a misdemeanor conviction or a removal order could have been approved for DACA. But those two things now make people who have them priorities for deportation.
- The possibility that a congressional bill, such as the BRIDGE Act, becomes law and protects people who have DACA or who meet the DACA guidelines.
- The possibility that the administration ends DACA but announces its own plan, a new program.
If you’re planning to apply for DACA, either for the first time or to renew it, we suggest that first you speak with an attorney or Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)–accredited representative. If you decide to submit an application after you’ve consulted with an attorney or accredited representative, we recommend that you include in your application a completed form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative. The G-28 must be completed by your attorney or accredited representative. It provides information about their eligibility to act on your behalf. More information and suggestions about what to consider with respect to DACA in the Trump era is available in our “New Questions and Answers About DACA Now That Trump Is President.”
If you decide to apply, be aware that the application fee is now $495 (it went up in Dec. 2016), and don’t forget to use the most recent versions of each application form. (Check the bottom left-hand side of each form. Form I-765 should have the issue-date 01/17/17 and Form I-821D should have the issue-date 01/09/17.)
How do I prepare?
Stay informed. Follow United We Dream and UndocuMedia to stay informed about the latest news and to learn about ways you can fight back. You can also subscribe to NILC’s email list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You could follow what the administration is doing by checking their social media accounts as well as the White House website, but, given the decentralization of news, you can spend hours and hours trying to find information. It’s better to follow a trusted source like the ones listed so you can check their sites periodically and receive emails from them with news alerts.
Have a plan. If in the worst-case scenario you are picked up by Immigration, be sure you know in advance what your rights are. (Bookmark this page on your smartphone: www.nilc.org/KnowYourRights or www.nilc.org/ConozcaSusDerechos.) Know whom to call, and have that person be responsible for notifying others of your whereabouts and advocating for your release. Have the number of an attorney or BIA-accredited representative memorized or at least readily available. Recently it’s been in the news that people who’ve applied for or have received DACA have been questioned and even detained by immigration enforcement agents, so be prepared even if you feel you are protected under DACA.
Join a community or network that advocates for immigrants. The most important thing you can do right now is to get involved and form connections with other DACA recipients and advocates. The benefits are endless. Even if DACA is taken away, you can still learn from the people who fought for it about their strategies for surviving before DACA was available. Through trials and tribulations, you can share what has worked and what has not worked for you, and others can do the same. You can connect and think through what can be done to create a relatively safe place to take refuge in case Immigration comes to your home, work, or school. Being part of a collective movement and working to combat this threat can help counteract feelings of isolation, despair, or that your life has become subject to the Trump administration’s whims. By getting involved, you’ll gain emotional support, a shared sense of community, a better understanding of resources that are available to you—and you’ll be helping build a movement with others who are defending and advancing human rights.