Consequences of a Trump Presidency for DACA

DACA Under the Incoming Trump Administration

During his campaign, Trump often alluded to ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program allowing hundreds of thousands of young people without immigration status to come out of the shadows and apply for work permits and drivers licenses.

DACA was set in place by President Obama’s executive order.  It is not a law passed by Congress.  This means that Trump can do whatever he pleases with DACA.  DACA is the most at risk program currently.

No one can predict what will happen to DACA.  Don’t let anyone tell you that that “DACA is safe” or “DACA is going to end immediately and everyone is going to be rounded up and deported.”

No one can read a crystal ball.  What is more likely the future of DACA can fall under the following possibilities:

  • Leave DACA alone, for now.With almost 700.000 DACA’s in place, Trump will need bargaining chips to use with Congress as he seeks cooperation from both Republicans and Democrats  He may be advised not to make any immediate changes to DACA, and keep it as a pressure point in the larger scheme of things.  If this happens, USCIS could continue to accept new DACA applications and renewals.  It’s still possible that, if Congress passes common-sense immigration reform, it could include a path to lawful permanent residence for DACA beneficiaries.
  • Current DACA beneficiaries may be allowed to renew, but end new applications. Under this scenario, current DACA beneficiaries could continue to renew their status indefinitely, like TPS.
  • An eventual “phase out” of DACA. USCIS could be ordered to stop accepting new DACA applications and renewals as early as his first day in office.  If this happens, people who currently have DACA could continue to remain and work lawfully until their expiration date.
  • An IMMEDIATE END to” DACA. If this happens all existing DACA grants are invalid, and that employment authorization documents issued under DACA are not valid.

In any of the above scenarios, the government  may  direct Immigration & Customs Enforcement to use the database of DACA beneficiaries (and their immediate family members) to target people for deportation.  Also ICE may instead prioritize those with criminal records and prior deportation orders.

Immigration courts are extremely backlogged and will likely become even more so if deportation is escalated before giving the court system time to implement systems to take on the expected case load.  That being said, an attempt to deport large numbers of people would be slow and expensive (some cases are being set past 2020), most likely out living the Trump presidency.


What should I do if I already have DACA?

Consult with a reputable immigration attorney about your options.  Many DACA beneficiaries are eligible for other forms of relief that Trump cannot immediately repeal, such as asylum (regardless of how long you have been here), cancellation of removal, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U visas for victims of crime, VAWA relief for survivors of domestic violence, or sponsorship by a family member with status.

What about expanded DACA and DAPA?

In November 2014, President Obama announced a planned expansion to the DACA program, making deferred action available to people who arrived before 2010 (instead of 2007), as well as the parents of US citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident children.  These programs have never taken effect, and likely will never take effect.  The Department of Justice under Obama has been defending these programs against a court challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court this year, and is now back in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  However, there will likely be no final Fifth Circuit decision before January, and a Trump administration is not likely to defend or implement this policy.

Any promise to file an application under DAPA or expanded DACA is a scam.