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What is DACA? How will its end impact Indian immigrants? What next? Answers here

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday began dismantling Barack Obama’s programme protecting hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.

world Updated: Sep 06, 2017 16:11 IST
A supporter marches past the Metropolitan Detention Center as undocumented people jailed inside tap on the windows in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s order end to DACA on September 5.
A supporter marches past the Metropolitan Detention Center as undocumented people jailed inside tap on the windows in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s order end to DACA on September 5.(AFP Photo)

US President Donald Trump has scrapped a programme benefiting young people who entered the US illegally as children.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Tuesday that the programme that shielded more than 800,000 young immigrants from deportation was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority” that must be revoked.

Trump made a campaign promise to end protections for the young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programme, which benefits youth whose parents brought them to the US illegally as children or whose families overstayed visas.

But as President, Trump has expressed sympathy for the participants, sometimes called “Dreamers,” and struggled with the decision. Trump notably chose not to be the face of Tuesday’s announcement.

What is DACA?

DACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 after pressure from immigrant advocates who wanted protections for the young immigrants who were mostly raised in the US but lacked legal status.

Young immigrants, activists and supporters of the DACA programme march through downtown Los Angeles, California on September 5. (AFP Photo)

The programme protects them from deportation — granting a two-year reprieve that can be extended and by issuing a work permit and a Social Security number.

DACA recipients must meet several requirements, including having no criminal record. Immigrants who are accepted into the program and later get arrested face deportation to their home country.

They also must have been 30 or younger when the program was launched and brought to the US before age 16.

The application cost is nearly $500, and permits must be renewed every two years. The application and renewal process take several weeks, and many immigrants hire lawyers to help navigate the process.

DACA does not give beneficiaries legal US residency; they are simply given a reprieve from deportation while being allowed to legally work.

The overwhelming majority of DACA recipients are from Mexico. One in four of them live in California.

What will be the impact on Indian immigrants?

Thousands of people from India are fearing deportation after President Donald Trump decided to repeal the Obama-era amnesty programme, a South Asian Advocacy group said.

Immigrants and supporters rally and march in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s order to end DACA. (AFP Photo)

Trump repealed the DACA programme that granted work permits to immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children, a move likely to impact 800,000 undocumented workers including more than 7,000 Indian-Americans.

The number of people from India who arrived in the US illegally as children could be more than 20,000, according to an estimate carried out by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

“Over 27,000 Asian Americans, including 5,500 Indians and Pakistanis, have already received DACA. An additional estimated 17,000 individuals from India and 6,000 from Pakistan respectively are eligible for DACA, placing India in the top ten countries for DACA eligibility,” SAALT said.

With the termination of DACA, these individuals could face deportation at the discretion of the administration, it said.

Why DACA?

Frustration grew during the Obama administration over repeated failures to pass the “Dream Act,” which would have provided a path to legal US citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country as children.

The last major attempt to pass the legislation was in 2011.

Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience in an effort to push Obama to act after Congress did not pass legislation. DACA is different than the Dream Act because it does not provide a pathway to legal residency or citizenship. Still, DACA recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers” — a reference to the earlier proposals that failed in Congress before Obama’s action.

Why end DACA?

Trump was under pressure from several states that threatened to sue his administration if it did not end DACA. And he declared on the campaign trail that the program was an “illegal” executive amnesty.

White House officials argue the order Obama issued creating the program was unconstitutional and that Congress should take charge of legislation dealing the issue. They say the program was on shaky legal ground and would not have survived legal challenges in the courts.

Immigrant advocates, clergy and business leaders including the chief executives of Apple and Microsoft put intense pressure on Trump to maintain the program. But he decided to end it.

What happens now?

Young immigrants already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire.

If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by October 5.

If their permits expire beyond that March date, they will not be able to renew and could be subject to deportation when their permits expire.

People who miss the October deadline will be disqualified from renewing their permission to remain in the country and could face deportation, although the Trump administration has said it will not actively provide their information to immigration authorities.

And it will be up to Congress to take up and pass legislation helping DACA beneficiaries. One bill introduced this year would provide a path to legal permanent residency.

Many DACA beneficiaries say they worry they will be forced to take lower-wage, under-the-table jobs and will be unable to pay for college or help their families financially.

What does former President Obama have to say?

“Today is a cruel day for Dreamers, our families, and all Americans ... President Trump just threw the lives and futures of 800,000 Dreamers and their families, including my own, into fearful disarray, and injected chaos and uncertainty into thousands of workplaces and communities across America. He is using the lives of 800,000 people as pawns,” a statement by Obama said.