Courts Immigration

Trump Administration Places Further Limitations on DACA in Defiance of Court Order

On Tuesday the Trump administration took further action to limit the scope of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced in a memo that the Trump administration would not accept new applications for DACA and would force those currently enrolled in the program to apply for a renewal of their DACA status every year instead of every two years as previously stipulated. The DHS will also begin blocking most DACA participants from working outside of the United States.

Acting Secretary Wolf explained that the measures would be implemented while the DHS reviews DACA’s legality. “I have concluded that the DACA policy, at a minimum, presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission. At the same time, I have concluded that fully rescinding the policy would be a significant administration decision that warrants additional careful consideration,” he stated.

The announcement comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month 5-4 that the Trump administration’s previous attempts to dismantle DACA were unlawful. However, the Supreme Court only ruled that the procedure the Trump administration used to eliminate the program was illegal, not that dismantling the program itself was unlawful. Based on this ruling, Judge Paul W. Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ordered the Trump administration to accept new DACA applicants. The Trump administration refused to comply and released the Wolf memo in response.

The Trump administration began working to dismantle DACA in 2017 when it first started rejecting all new applicants to the program. Many viewed the Supreme Court’s ruling as an indication that the administration had to temporarily halt this practice until they had a new legal basis for eliminating the program. DACA itself was first created via executive order by President Obama in 2012. It allows immigrants who were brought to the country illegally at a young age to apply for protection from deportation. More than 640,000 people are currently participating in DACA. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that a further 66,000 people have become eligible for the program since 2017 but have been barred from participation. DACA is popular among voters, with one poll finding that 3 out of 4 registered voters believe DACA recipients should be allowed to remain in the United States.

The new DACA restrictions have received criticism from a number of prominent immigration advocacy organizations. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) wrote a joint letter to the DHS stating that its actions were an “illegal usurpation of authority in violation of the separation of powers” and “effectively an act of tyranny.” It is expected that the restrictions will be challenged in court.

Sources: Vox 7/28/20; U.S. Department of Homeland Security Memo 7/28/20; CNN 6/18/20; Pittsburg Post Gazette 7/18/20; Politico 7/28/20; CBS News 7/17/20; Migration Policy Institute, Politico 6/17/20; House Committee on the Judiciary Press Release 7/24/20

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