WASHINGTON (CN) – The Trump administration is leaving in place a program protecting hundreds of thousands young immigrants from deportation — one that candidate Donald Trump had vowed to eliminate.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly quietly announced the decision at the bottom of a fact sheet released late Thursday declaring the end to a similar, but never-implemented program intended to shield immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, does not give them residency status, but temporarily protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. The protection can be revoked at any time and some young immigrants have lost their DACA protections after being arrested for a crime.
The program affecting parents, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, was blocked by a federal judge in Texas after 26 states sued. The GOP has long seen it as a hot-button issue, dismissing it as a “backdoor amnesty” program. Republicans argued that Obama overstepped his authority by protecting a specific class of immigrants living in the United States illegally.
That program, like the one for young immigrants, was created with a policy memo, not by legislation. Both programs required that participants meet certain conditions, including not having a history of serious crimes.
“This rescission will not affect the terms of the original DACA program as outlined in the June 15, 2012, memorandum,” the fact sheet says.
The move is a shift from President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration during the campaign, though the New York Times reported that the decision to keep the program in place could be temporary.
As a result, immigration advocacy groups have met the news with cautious optimism, while also criticizing the administration for pulling out of the court battle over the DAPA program.
“The DACA program, which protects my little sister, me and 800,000 other young people still stands,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream and a DACA beneficiary, said in a statement. “Rather than building upon the success of DACA, Republicans in Congress voted to stop the expansion of the program to our parents, a handful of state Republicans filed a lawsuit against the expansion, a partisan Republican judge blocked it and now Trump got rid of it. We campaigned hard to protect our parents and aren’t stopping now because this is our home and we are #HereToStay.”
The administration said its decision is based on “a number of factors, including the nationwide injunction of the DAPA memorandum, the ongoing litigation, the fact that DAPA never took effect and our new immigration enforcement priorities.”
Twenty-six states filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in December 2014 to stop the DAPA program, with U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issuing an injunction in February 2015. The Supreme Court eventually took up the case but deadlocked in June 2016, leaving in place the lower court’s injunction.
In a press release the Department of Homeland Security said “there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy.”