Trump said this action would provide an opportunity for Congress to take meaningful action on immigration reform that also focuses on the safety of Americans. He expressed disapproval of the current immigration system, which he said favors low-skill workers.
“While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today,” he said in his statement.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was a program started by President Barack Obama in 2012.
“DACA essentially provides individuals who came to this country as a child through non-legal means with some level of security in order to work and go to school,” said Nestor Ramirez, a doctoral student in the UNC School of Education studying higher education policy.
These people, known as Dreamers, gained temporary work permits, Social Security numbers and protected status, he said.
Dreamers are currently in limbo because the fate of DACA is unknown, he said. The Trump administration is pushing for Congress to pass reform, but a U.S. District Court ruled last week that the administration can't phase out DACA.
In September 2017, Elaine Duke, acting attorney general of the Department of Homeland Security, rescinded DACA on the grounds that the administration believed it to be illegal. According to the court ruling, this is not a valid reason.
Amid these debates, Dreamers living in the United States are unsure if their protections will remain. Many of these Dreamers are college students. Jane Fernandes, president of Guilford College and a member of the President’s Alliance, said action needs to be taken quickly.
“We wrote the letter to convey the urgency of legislation to protect Dreamers whose DACA status will expire on Jan. 21, 2018,” she said. “In just six days, many DACA students will become undocumented and thus unable to work or drive and will be subject to deportation.”
Ramirez said colleges and universities especially have a stake in the success of Dreamers because they provide potential and tuition revenue.
He said because Dreamers are not citizens, they are considered international students and are not able to receive Pell Grants and loans that allow them to go to school.
“That is why there is so much advocacy for tuition equity policies,” he said. “These allow students who graduate from a high school in a state to qualify for in-state tuition.”
Fernandes said it does not make sense to end DACA after all that has been invested in the success of Dreamers.
“We would be foolhardy not to retain these young people who have already demonstrated their utmost desire to be fully engaged citizens and contribute to the success of the United States,” she said.
The Justice Department said Tuesday it would ask the Supreme Court to allow the administration to end DACA, and Trump is still urging Congress to reform immigration policies. Until a legislative fix to DACA is formulated, Ramirez said, Dreamers will continue to live in limbo.