Why Most ‘Dreamers’ Are Likely Safe from Deportation

Despite freakout over Trump phase-out of amnesty program, DACA recipients will remain a low priority

The reaction on the Left to President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was severe and predictable, but experts contend most face a minute risk of deportation even if Congress fails to act.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration created DACA in 2012 for illegal immigrants brought to America as children. It shields recipients from deportation and authorizes them to work. Tens of thousands of recipients have managed to obtain legal permanent residency, and more than 1,000 already have become citizens.

Under pressure from states that had vowed to file a lawsuit that likely would have resulted in a ruling striking DACA down as unconstitutional, Trump announced Tuesday that he will end it in six months. Even if Congress fails to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, the nearly 800,000 so-called dreamers enrolled in DACA likely would have little to fear from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

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The White House on Tuesday sought to allay fears that the administration would use information on DACA applications to target recipients once the program expires. A White House statement indicated that the Department of Homeland Security’s approach to immigration enforcement would not change.

“DHS’s enforcement priorities remain in place,” the statement reads. “However, absent a law enforcement interest — which is largely the standard that has been in place since the inception of the program — the Department will generally not take actions to remove active DACA recipients.”

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Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that he looks forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” he wrote.

Most advocates of stricter immigration enforcement said it is appropriate that former DACA recipients would be low priorities. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it is highly unlikely that the administration would conduct mass roundups and deportations.

“Some of the more shrill groups were suggesting that,” she said.

Vaughan said ICE almost certainly would treat former DACA recipients how it generally treats illegal immigrants: Immigration officers would not seek them out, she said, but would not ignore them should they run across them, either.

“The only people who are going to be affected are people who should not have had DACA in the first place.”

That means an illegal immigrant who was enrolled in DACA and is leading a quiet life likely never would be deported. But someone who is hanging out with gang members could well be swept up in an ICE raid, Vaughan said.

“The only people who are going to be affected are people who should not have had DACA in the first place,” she said.

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, said ICE has its hands full just trying to track down illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes — particularly considering that so many “sanctuary” cities and counties release high-priority illegal immigrants from their jails rather than cooperate with ICE.

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“The federal government has limited resources,” he said. “So they’re going to have to prioritize enforcement effects.”

Chmielenski also noted that the Obama administration released many illegal immigrants apprehended near the border. Newly arrived adult illegal immigrants will take precedent over those who grew up in the United States.

“That’s going to take up most of the time for a few years,” he said.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Elvert Barnes, Flickr)

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