Despite No DACA ‘Fix,’ Little Will Change When Deadline Passes

Two court rulings have blocked President Trump from ending the controversial program — and enrollees would not be deportation priorities

With Congress having failed to pass legislation to grant amnesty to the dreamers, some 690,000 illegal immigrants enrolled in a quasi-amnesty program created by executive action during Barack Obama’s administration are bracing themselves for the March 5 deadline President Donald Trump set for ending it.

Don’t expect fireworks.

Despite the specter of mass deportations raised by defenders of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, experts said little will change when Trump’s March 5 deadline arrives.

Two separate federal judges have blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA, which the Department of Homeland Security conjured up in 2012 under Barack Obama.

The first, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, ruled that the department must continue to accept applications for renewals while plaintiffs pursue allegations that the administration acted improperly in revoking it.

The second ruling, which came this week from U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, ordered the administration to begin accepting new applications.

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to bypass the normal appeals process and review Alsup’s decision immediately. The court could decide whether to do that as early as Friday. But even if the justices take the case, it could be weeks before they resolve the dispute, according to experts.

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“Nothing will happen in the short term,” said Andrew “Art” Arthur, a fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Arthur said it is difficult to speculate about whether the court will take the case right away or let the ordinary appeals process play out.

“It’s so unusual that it’s tough to say whether it’s likely to happen,” he said. “The Supreme Court could easily take a pass on it by punting to Congress … That’s a tea leaf I can’t read.”

Even if Trump gets the green light to end DACA, however, Arthur said it is highly unlikely many former enrollees would be deported.

“One, it’s a PR disaster,” he said. “And two, it’s not good policy.”

“If they do get put into removal proceedings, it would probably be for reasons that would jeopardize their DACA status anyway.”

Arthur said that with about 900,000 illegal immigrants on the loose with final deportation orders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have bigger fish to fry than young adult illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to America as children.

Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, agreed. He said deportations mostly would be limited to former DACA enrollees who committed crimes or got swept up in arrests targeting other illegal immigrants.

“If they do get put into removal proceedings, it would probably be for reasons that would jeopardize their DACA status anyway,” he said.

The Senate voted Thursday on four different immigration proposals; all failed to get the necessary 60 votes to break a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chastised his Democratic colleagues afterward. He said he thought they would jump at Trump’s offer for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people in exchange for greater border security and fewer legal immigrants.

“But they just couldn’t take yes for an answer. They turned away from a golden opportunity to solve the issue,” McConnell said. “They decided they’d rather come away empty-handed with no resolution whatsoever for the 1.8 million individuals they say they are championing.”

Chmielenski said it will be interesting to see if Democrats use the March 23 expiration of the latest temporary funding measure to make another run at amnesty.

“Are Democrats going to be willing to shut down the government again and force the issue?” he asked.

Related: Senate Rejects Bipartisan Amnesty for Dreamers

Chmielenski said that with the Senate effort seemingly dead, the House of Representatives likely will not try to pass a hard-line bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that included legal status — but not a path to citizenship — for DACA beneficiaries.

But Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said there would be value in forcing Democrats in the lower chamber to go on record ahead of the midterm elections.

Despite its characterization as an extremist bill, Mehlman said, the individual elements are popular

“The House needs to take it up,” he said.

Despite its characterization as an extremist bill, Mehlman said, the individual elements are popular. He said polls show Americans overwhelmingly support accepting fewer immigrants, giving preference to newcomers with education and skills, requiring businesses to use the E-Verify system and eliminating the diversity visa lottery.

“It’s actually not that controversial,” he said.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.