Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the government will renew DACA permits until March 5, 2018, on a case-by-case basis, but will not accept any new applications.
VIDEO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces the end of DACA
After months of unease, the worst came true Tuesday; the Trump administration announced its decision to "terminate" the DACA program, which protected nearly 800,000 undocumented youth who came to the U.S. when they were minors.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement at a morning press briefing. Sessions said the administration will give a six-month window for Congress to pass legislation, saying the program would be phased out in an "orderly wind down."
In a memo, the Department of Homeland Security affirmed that no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018. However, DHS "will reject all DACA initial requests and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents" filed after today, it said.
All DACA permits renewed between now and March will be valid for their normal two-year period. But those applications must be filed by October 5.
President Trump issued a statement, saying, "I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity
because we are a nation of laws."
In a Tweet, he also urged Congress to pass legislation.
The administration's announcement came in anticipation of a legal fight by a group of Republicans who say the program, created under fpormer President Barack Obama, is unconstitutional. In a letter, ten attorneys general and the governor of Idaho promised in June to sue the federal government if it did not eliminate DACA by September 5.
Obama took to Facebook on Tuesday to defend the program. "Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question," he wrote. "To target these young people is wrong."
Obama noted that most of the Dreamers came to the United States as infants, have little familiarity with the country of their birth and speak English as their first language. In many cases they were unaware of being undocumented until they applied for a driver's license or university.
In his remarks, Sessions said DACA had been "implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern" after Congress tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation to protect Dreamers a number of times.
"Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens," Sessions said. "In other words the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions."
He said that was "an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch."
Trump about Dreamers: "They shouldn't be very worried"
Trump's decision contradicts a number of statements he made in recent months. In a January interview on ABC, Trump said that DACA beneficiaries: "shouldn't be very worried ... I have a big heart." On Friday, Trump told reporters "We love the Dreamers."
Sessions' announcement was met by a number of protests, including in Washington D.C. and New York where
Dreamers were arrested during a protest outside Trump Tower. In Denver some
students staged a walkout of classes.
Amid fears that the administration would do away with DACA, a number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation in recent months to protect young Dreamers. One bill, called the "Bridge Act," would grant the same benefits as DACA to the same categories of beneficiaries.
The other three options, including the bipartisan "Dream Act," would go one step further, giving dreamers a way to legalize their status and eventually become U.S. citizens.
The question now is whether any of these legislative options could actually move to a vote in 2017.
What is the program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)?
2010 | A group of young undocumented immigrants from Massachusetts and New York protested in July 2010 in front of the White House in support of the Dream Act. That was the name given to a bill introduced in 2001 to legalize young immigrants who had arrived to the U.S. as children. It was never approved.
Foto: Rubén Gamarra/EFE | Univision
2012 | Following Congress' inaction and seeking to fulfill the promise of immigration reform, the Obama administration announced DACA, the executive order that would protect hundreds of thousands of young people from deportation and grant them a temporary work permit. "They grew up as Americans and feel part of the country," Obama argued.
Foto: White House | Univision
2012 | Bolivian Diego Mariaca, along with his mother Ingrid Vaca, was among the first to complete documentation to obtain DACA, in a Washington, D.C. office.
Foto: Getty Images | Univision
2012 | Applications for DACA opened on August 15, 2012, which created huge lines of young people with their families at centers like this one in Los Angeles.
Foto: Getty Images | Univision
2014 | Obama again used his executive power. He announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an extension of the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program for those who did not qualify due to their age when it was first launched in 2012.
Foto: Michael Reynolds/EFE | Univision
2015-16 | But Obama's second attempt wasn't successful. In February 2015, a court order blocked DAPA and the DACA extension. It went on to the Supreme Court, which resulted in a tie in June 2016, leaving the two in legal limbo. The original DACA, which benefited some 750,000 young people, remained in effect.
Foto: EFE | Univision
2015 |President Barack Obama met with beneficiaries of the DACA program in the Oval Office in February 2015.
Foto: Win McNamee/Getty Images | Univision
2016 | The 2016 presidential campaign brought the promise of mass deportations and an end to Obama's executive actions. Immigration activists took to the streets and carried out hundreds of protests against the real estate magnate.
Foto: EFE | Univision
2016 | Congressman Luis Gutierrez and several Democrats called for President Barack Obama to use his power to pardon the more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants covered by DACA before leaving the White House. He did not.
Foto: Lenin Nolly/EFE | Univision
2017 | Given Trump's pledge to end executive action, Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked on a bipartisan bill to protect Dreamers from deportation for an additional three years. That was confirmed by Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, during a press conference on Thursday, January 12, 2017.
Foto: J. Scott Applewhite/AP | Univision
2017 | In his first official press conference, White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not include ending DACA as a priority of President Donald Trump. Instead, priorities are the border wall and deportations of immigrants with criminal records, he said.
Foto: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters | Univision
February 17, 2017 | A protest outside the doors of a federal court in Seattle, Washington, against the arrest of Dreamer Daniel Ramirez Medina. Under the new government, several dreamers - whose permit had expired - have been arrested and even deported.
Foto: Karen Ducey/Getty Images | Univision
April 2017 |Trump has promised to find a humane solution for hundreds of thousands of DACA beneficiaries. In February, he vowed to treat Dreamers “with heart” during a news conference; in April, he said they could “rest easy” because he’d focus his deportation efforts on so-called criminals. However, in Trump's first 100 days, various Dreamers are arrested.
Foto: Carolyn Kaster/AP | Univision
April 28, 2017 | Lorella Praeli, one of DACA's most recognizable faces, is named the ACLU's new Immigration Policy Leader. The agency has turned courts and legislatures into a battlefield against Donald Trump and his immigration decisions.
2017 | Amid fears that the Trump administration might do away with DACA, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have introduced legislation in recent months to protect Dreamers. Passing legislation in Congress to protect undocumented youth has long been an elusive goal, with a number of failed attempts since 2001.
Foto: Getty Images | Univision
June 29, 2017 | Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with nine state attorneys general and the governor of Idaho, threatened to sue the Trump administration if it does not cancel DACA by September 5. As they await a decision, Dreamers are on edge again.
Foto: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin | Univision