After a couple weeks of reports that a decision was coming soon, Politico announced Sunday that President Donald Trump was planning to end the Obama administration's DACA program. It's a major policy change that will ultimately imperil hundreds of thousands of DREAMers throughout the country, exposing them to renewed threat of deportation. And as such, it's raising an obvious question for pro-immigrant activists, advocates, and really, anyone who cares about the situation ― can Trump eliminating DACA be stopped, or is it now a done deal? UPDATE: On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions announced during a press conference that the White House plans to "rescind" DACA.
The answer, sad to say, is that Trump has pretty overwhelming authority to strip the protections afforded by DACA ― that's short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ― because it was never actually passed as a law. Rather, it was a program the Obama administration established through executive authority, a fact which led many congressional Republicans to criticize it as an abuse of executive power.
Had the provisions of the DACA program ever been passed by Congress and signed into law, as was essentially attempted with the DREAM Act, then the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress would have to repeal the law in order to undo its effects. And as the battle over the Affordable Care Act recently showed, repealing major laws can be difficult in the extreme with public pressure bearing down on the other side.
As simply a federal program the Obama administration enacted, however, Trump can just as easily shut it down, following through with the deeply anti-immigrant xenophobia of his campaign and early administration. It's worth remembering that Trump's first-ever public speech as a political figure included his now-infamous broad-brush smear of Mexican immigrants as "rapists" within its first five minutes.
And virtually everything he's said and proposed since ― promising an increased in mass deportations, and launching a whole new government agency (VOICE) designed to specifically and solely highlight crimes committed by immigrants ― has echoed that demagogic and xenophobic outlook. Indeed, ICE raids and arrests have reportedly increased since Trump took office in January.
That doesn't mean pro-immigration advocacy groups are entirely out of options for how to fight, to be clear; protests, legal challenges, and overwhelming public pressure can all help keep the issue alive in the national consciousness.
But as far as the immediate impact of Trump's decision is concerned, things do not look good. Ending DACA is widely seen as squarely within the president's authority, and as such, this is an extremely harrowing moment for hundreds of thousands of people and their families. It remains to be seen how the end of the program will be implemented, and just how many people will have to fear deportation how soon. But as it stands now, the DACA protections are on the way out.