Deporting Undocumented Dreamers: Jayashri Srikantiah on the End of DACA

On Tuesday, September 5, President Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the executive action issued by President Obama in 2012 that allowed young undocumented immigrants to remain legally in the country to attend school and work. This week’s order delays for six months the deportation of roughly 800,000 young adults who arrived in this country as children. In this Q&A, Stanford Law Professor Jayashri Srikantiah explains DACA and potential implications of rescinding it.

What is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA?

DACA is an Obama-era program under which certain immigrant youth who came the United States without papers are granted “deferred action,” a temporary permission to stay in the United States. DACA recipients are eligible to apply for work permits.

Stanford Law Professor Jayashri Srikantiah
Stanford Law Professor Jayashri Srikantiah

Can you tell us a bit about DACA’s impact?

DACA has been transformative for the close to 800,000 undocumented immigrant youth who have obtained it. Studies show that DACA has enabled its recipients to pursue greater educational opportunities and higher-paying jobs. DACA recipients have contributed to the U.S. economy and to their communities.

What is the legal status for the 800,000 or so current beneficiaries of the program once DACA is rescinded? What are the legal implications of this 6-month waiting period?

President Trump has directed that DACA be phased out and eliminated over two and a half years. Until October 5, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to accept and process DACA renewal applications. After that date, USCIS will reject all initial and renewal DACA applications.

Individuals who have current, unexpired grants of DACA can maintain their protection from deportation and work permit until the expiration date.

Won’t the government have all their details—names, addresses, etc.? How vulnerable to deportation will they be? What does the law say about—protections for their privacy?

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (which adjudicates DACA applications), the agency will not “proactively” provide information given in DACA requests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the applicant “poses a risk to national security or public safety.” It is unclear at this point how USCIS and other federal agencies will implement this policy. In addition, the National Immigration Law Center and other organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging DACA’s rescission.

Can states override this action—or set up protections of their own?

States like California have additional protections for undocumented students, including in-state tuition and driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, however, states cannot directly regulate immigration, and only the federal government has the authority to grant a deferral from deportation or work authorization.

President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA is extremely distressing and cruel. The young people who have obtained DACA have already contributed to our society in so many ways and this rescission robs them of the opportunity to achieve their dreams and to deepen their contributions to this country.

Jayashri Srikantiah is a professor of law and the founding director of Stanford Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Under her direction, students in the clinic have represented scores of immigrants facing deportation, including asylum-seekers, immigrants with prior criminal convictions, immigrant survivors of crime and undocumented migrants with longstanding ties to the United States.