Despite assurances just four months ago that undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children should "rest easy," President Donald Trump is now considering scrapping future admissions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed the DACA program with administration officials at the White House on Thursday, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting.
While a final decision has not been reached yet, Trump is considering two options for DACA, another source close to agency and congressional officials said.
DACA is meant for undocumented immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the United States as children, commonly referred to as "Dreamers." Under the program, if they pass background checks, recipients are temporarily allowed to live, work and seek education in the country, though they do not receive citizenship or legal status.
The program has nearly 790,000 recipients. Its goal is to allow young people -- many of whom have lived the majority of their lives in the US -- to contribute to their communities without living in fear of being deported if caught.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke held a meeting Monday with top immigration and policy officials, including Thomas Homan, the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to review the status of DACA, according to DHS spokesman Dave Lapan.
This was one of several "routine" meetings in recent months where DACA has been discussed, Lapan said. DHS has not reached a conclusion on the future of the program, Lapan said.
The Monday meeting, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was also attended by Chad Wolf, the acting DHS chief of staff, Dimple Shah, the DHS deputy general counsel, and James Nealon, a former US ambassador to Honduras and current department senior official engaged in policy work, Lapan said.
The administration has faced growing pressure by opponents of the program. One factor forcing the Trump administration's hand on DACA in the coming month is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Paxton, along with nine other state attorneys general, issued an ultimatumto the administration last in July: Phase out DACA by September 5 or see you in court.
"This request does not require the Executive Branch to immediately rescind DACA or Expanded DACA permits that have already been issued," Paxton further explained in the letter. "And this request does not require the federal government to remove any alien."
Texas has already succeeded in blocking a similar program used to protect the parents of childhood arrivals to the US during the Obama administration.
If Trump doesn't make a decision fast, then the Justice Department will be painted into a corner of having to make a decision about whether or not to defend the program in court.
Meanwhile, DACA advocates argue that ending the program right now would send a broader message to the country.
"Targeting innocent immigrant young people would only deepen the moral crisis President Trump has plunged his administration into," said Vanita Gupta, former head of DOJ's civil rights division under President Barack Obama, who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "In addition to being morally bankrupt and unjust, tearing immigrant families apart is bad for our economy. And sending people deeper into the shadows will only make our communities.
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