When the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year, it set an arbitrary deadline of March 5, 2018 for Congress to deliver a solution to replace DACA, which shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Well, that deadline has arrived, and Congress has failed. All four immigration bills the Senate took up to address the issue were voted down.
So where does DACA stand right now? It’s complicated. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is everyone talking about the March 5 deadline?
On September 5 of last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration was rescinding President Obama’s executive order enacting the DACA program. The Trump administration announced it would end the program gradually by only allowing people with DACA authorizations that expired before March 5, 2018, to renew their status.
The March 5 deadline served as a call to Congress to pass legislation that would enshrine DACA protections into law, allowing young undocumented immigrants to live in the U.S. without the fear of being deported.
So DACA is over now?
Not quite. At this point, the March 5 deadline is “essentially irrelevant” because two federal judges have ordered the Trump administration to keep the embattled program in place.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis” as a legal challenge to the president’s decision goes forward. Then, a month later, a federal judge in New York said the Trump administration had not “offered legally adequate reasons” for ending DACA, and ordered the administration to continue accepting DACA renewal applications. The Supreme Court last week declined a Trump administration request to intervene in the situation.
That’s not to say that the deadline has had no impact; United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is continuing to accept DACA renewal applications, but due to fear and uncertainty, fewer people are doing so.
What’s the March 5 deadline mean for DACA recipients?
The deadline does not mean that all 700,000 DACA authorizations will expire en masse today.
The most important date for DACA recipients is the day their individual DACA authorization expires, because that is the day they will lose their work permit and protections from deportation.
DACA authorizations expire about two years from the day they were issued or renewed. If nothing changes to the Obama-era version of the program, a DACA authorization that is approved today would expire two years from now.
Immigrant rights advocates cite a Migration Policy Institute study that found an average of 915 young unauthorized immigrants will lose their DACA status each day beginning on March 6, 2018, through March 5, 2020. UCSIS claims a total of 13,090 DACA permits are due to expire in March.
What happens to DACA recipients if their authorizations expire?
The most immediate consequence undocumented immigrants with expired DACA authorizations will face is their ability to work legally in the U.S. (Unless of course, their employers step up and choose not to fire them.)
DACA work authorizations have improved the lives of young undocumented immigrants by allowing them to access jobs with higher wages. A Center for American Progress study found that 69 percent of respondents reported moving to a job with better pay after they received their DACA authorizations.
ICE officials have said they do not intend to proactively target young immigrants with expired DACA authorizations for deportation. However, if immigration agents are conducting an enforcement raid and come across someone with expired DACA protections, officials say they “won’t ignore” young immigrants.
What happens now? What are immigrant rights advocates doing about the deadline?
Currently, DACA recipients can continue to renew their applications, but the program is still in limbo because court rulings could change the situation at any moment. If the challengers to Trump’s decision lose in court and there is no legislative solution in place, DACA recipients could be left without a safety net. That’s why immigrant rights activists are continuing to pressure Trump and Congress to support legislation that protects DACA recipients.
The ACLU, MoveOn.org and the immigrant youth-led organization United We Dream launched a campaign this week calling on Trump to find a solution to the crisis he created.
An ACLU spokesperson told Splinter activists will organize “bird-dogging demonstrations targeting Trump and other lawmakers who refuse to protect Dreamers.” Their campaign also includes a 30-second commercial scheduled to air during Fox & Friends, Trump’s favorite show.