“DACA is dead,” President Trump said in his anti-immigrant Twitter storm Sunday.
But according to statistics released Monday by the Justice Department, the Trump administration has approved tens of thousands of applications in recent months for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides temporary protection to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
More than 55,000 DACA initial and renewal applications were approved in the first three months of 2018, according to a quarterly report from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services filed in court by the Justice Department, as part of ongoing DACA litigation in California. More than 51,000 applications remained pending as of Saturday.
Since October, the beginning of fiscal 2018, a total of 138,470 renewal applications have been approved, along with 15,294 initial applications, according to the report.
The Trump administration planned to phase out the program and rescind work permits for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, also known as “dreamers,” beginning March 5. But federal district judges in California and New York issued nationwide injunctions blocking those plans.
In January, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said DACA recipients must retain their work permits and the government must continue renewing the DACA status of those who had it when the Trump administration ended the program Sept. 5.
Since Jan. 10, the day after Alsup’s injunction, the government has received 64,210 DACA renewal applications, according to a demographics report also released by the Justice Department on Monday. Of those, 31,860 had been approved as of Saturday, and 32,280 were still pending.
Of the more than 690,000 active DACA recipients, about 54,850 will not see their DACA status expire until 2020.
Immigration advocates who sought the California injunction said the data is evidence that their efforts in court have kept the program going and protected scores of dreamers from the threat of deportation.
“As a result of the nationwide injunction we secured, at least 30,000 Dreamers who have renewed their DACA status — our colleagues, our classmates, our teachers — can go home to their loved ones at night and keep helping build a better America,” said a statement from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who brought a lawsuit last fall along with attorneys general for Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, as well as the University of California, DACA recipients and others.
But other advocacy groups noted that dreamers are still in limbo, and that 9,160 immigrants with pending renewal applications had already lost their DACA status and work authorization as of Saturday, according to the government data.
“While very welcome news, Dreamers deserve permanent protection not 2-year extensions,” tweeted Karen Tumlin, legal director for the National Immigration Law Center. “So, while our President tweets falsehoods about #DACA & Congress has failed to pass the Dream Act, our communities suffer.”
Tumlin added that she hopes the numbers will steadily increase. “I hope most for a real solution,” she said.
The National Immigration Law Center said in a statement that, although the report presented positive news, “the fight to protect all Dreamers is far from over. Not all Dreamers are protected by the recent court decisions and we still desperately need a permanent solution to Trump’s DACA disaster.”
President Barack Obama established DACA through executive action in 2012, offering renewable, two-year work permits to young undocumented immigrants who met educational and residency requirements. Last fall, facing legal action from Texas and other Republican-led states, the Trump administration said DACA was unconstitutional.
The president announced plans to wind down the program starting March 5, but Alsup ruled that the program should continue while a lawsuit over DACA is pending. The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that the Trump administration failed to follow the law when it ended DACA and would cause irreparable harm by forcing immigrants to leave jobs, drop out of school and potentially be deported.
Although Alsup ordered that DACA recipients maintain their authorizations, he did not require the government to accept new applications. The federal government could also deny recipients the right to return to the United States if they travel abroad.
In February, after another lawsuit was filed by immigrant-rights groups, a federal district judge in New York issued a similar injunction blocking the administration’s plans to end the DACA program. That month, the Supreme Court rejected a request from the Trump administration to bypass an appellate court and review the injunction. The Supreme Court decision effectively extended the temporary protections and bought Congress more time to come up with a legislative solution, although it has yet to pass a DACA fix.
Trump has said he would like to reach a deal with Congress to protect dreamers from deportation in exchange for funding to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. But he has rejected immigration proposals from congressional Democrats in recent months, and on Sunday tweeted that there would be “NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
“DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon,” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding: “No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation.”
“These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA,” Trump also tweeted, misrepresenting the rules of the program. To qualify for DACA, immigrants must have lived in the United States since 2007, have arrived in the country before age 16 and have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012. No one arriving in the country after that date is eligible.
About 693,850 immigrants have active DACA status as of Saturday, according to the government data released Monday. The largest number of those immigrants, 553,200, came from Mexico, along with 26,160 from El Salvador, 17,920 from Guatemala, 16,420 from Honduras and thousands more from other countries worldwide.
California is home to the largest group of DACA recipients — nearly 200,000.
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