White House Orders DACA Review, Rejects New Applications

In response to the announcement by the administration, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento called the move to end DACA during the COVID-19 pandemic “irresponsible and recalcitrant.”

A family takes part in a rally in Washington D.C.
A family takes part in a rally in Washington D.C. (photo: Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday announced it will review the DACA program while not accepting any new applications by immigrants for deferred deportation.

The decision comes after the Supreme Court in June kept in place DACA—the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that was set up by the Obama administration in 2012 via an executive memorandum.

DACA provided certain immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children with an opportunity to apply for a two-year delay of deportation; once granted, they can then apply for federal benefits and work authorizations.

In September of 2017, the Trump administration announced it would wind down the program and stopped accepting new applicants. The administration gave Congress six months to pass legislation enacting parts of the program into law, but Congress failed to do so by the deadline in March of 2018.

The Supreme Court in June ruled that the Trump administration did not provide “a reasoned explanation” for its 2017 attempt to end the program, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. The court sent the case back to the administration for consideration.

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said in a memo that the Court did not rule definitively on the administration’s attempt to end DACA; the DHS said that the court left open the opportunity to end DACA by sending the case back to the administration, and not by declaring the program lawful.

In response to the announcement by the administration, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento--chair of the board at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC)--called the move to end DACA during the COVID-19 pandemic “irresponsible and recalcitrant.”

Around 800,000 immigrants have been DACA recipients. After the court left the program in place in June, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, D.C., praised the decision.

The bishops urged President Trump “to strongly reconsider terminating DACA,” citing the plight of immigrant families during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, an administration official said that the program will be subject to a “comprehensive review” during which new applications will be rejected. The review will include the “negative effect” of the program on activities such as “smuggling and illegal [border] crossings.”

Current DACA recipients can file for renewal of deferred action, which will only be granted on a case-by-case basis with only a one-year instead of a two-year renewal of status.

On July 17, a federal judge in Maryland ordered the administration to accept new DACA applications and treat the program as it would have existed before the September, 2017, decision to stop accepting new applicants.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday about the judge’s ruling, an administration official said that Trump had executive authority to adjust the program and that a new memo would be issued detailing the change in the application accepting process.

The official said that “the basis of DACA all along was discretionary.”