On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce that six months from now, the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently protects nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally in the US.
But if that's all Sessions says about the future of DACA, he won't actually answer the most urgent questions about the fate of the program. It won't provide the answers 800,000 people need in order to make decisions about their lives.
According to reports from Politico and other news outlets, Trump has all-but-decided to end DACA, in order to meet a deadline set by a group of state attorneys general who threatened to sue the administration if it continued the program. But the White House will apparently wait six months before taking action.
During the delay, theoretically, Congress could pass a bill that would grant either continued protections or full legal status to DACA-protected immigrants: unauthorized immigrants who entered the US before 2007 as children or young teens, and who meet educational and background-check requirements.
Except that it still isn't clear what "action" the administration is threatening to take after those six months.
DACA isn't an indefinite grant of protection — recipients have to apply to renew it every two years. Which means there's more than one way to end DACA, depending on what Trump decides to do about DACA renewals.
The most generous version of a six-month delay could allow nearly half of those who currently have DACA to keep their protections as late as spring 2020. The most draconian version could strip 800,000 people of work permits at once on March 5, 2018.
There are two big and so far unanswered questions about Trump's decision:
- At the end of the six-month period, is the Trump administration going to revoke 800,000 existing DACA protections at once, or is it going to "sunset" the program by simply preventing people from renewing their protections when their current 2-year window of protection expires?
- Will people be allowed to renew their DACA protections duringthat six-month period?
It doesn't appear that even the White House knows what exactly it wants to do with DACA renewals; Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman of the New York Timesreported Sunday that it was one of the "key details...still being worked out." It's not clear whether those details have been worked out in advance of Sessions' announcement Tuesday. Nor is it certain that Sessions, whose Department of Justice isn't actually responsible for administering DACA — and who isn't taking questions after his Tuesday announcement — will explain what the decision means for DACA recipients.
Without that explanation, the six-month "delay" won't be much comfort at all — it will just force them to spend six months (or longer) in psychological and economic limbo, even before having to deal on a daily basis with the manifest threat of deportation.