DACA Might Not End As Early As Dreamers Thought — Here’s Why

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It seems the White House standoff over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could come to a compromise soon — that is, if Trump gets his wall. The president announced on Wednesday that he was open to extending the DACA deadline, as well as offering a pathway to citizenship, in exchange for border wall funding. Currently, Congress has until March 5 to agree on the fate of the DACA program. Until then, the future of the DREAM Act remains in limbo while thousands of undocumented immigrants have already lost their DACA protections.

At Wednesday's press conference, Trump said Dreamers should not worry about being deported if their status expires. He also said he would accept a 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship for them. In the same breath, however, Trump told reporters that “if you don’t have a wall, you don’t have DACA." So, if DACA is going to survive, it appears as though lawmakers also have to approve $25 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall as well as additional funding for border security.

This isn't the first time Trump has proposed this deal. He made it clear in a tweet back in December that there would be no DACA without the wall:

The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!

The unresolved immigration dispute was the main reason why Congress was unable to a pass legislation to fund federal operations and agencies, which led to a government shutdown on Jan. 20. The government shutdown ended two days later after the Senate agreed on a temporary spending bill until Feb. 8 while continuing separate negotiations over the DREAM Act.

Under the DREAM Act, undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors and meet certain requirements can qualify for the DACA program. DACA grant recipients — known as Dreamers — have a renewable two-year protection from deportation as well as eligibility for a work permit. Nearly 800,000 Dreamers have had the chance to attend college and work in the United States since the Obama administration signed off on the DACA program in 2012, according to data released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

While a later DACA deadline will give a divided Congress more time to negotiate and finalize legislation, more time might not be a good thing. The March 5 deadline itself is an arbitrary date that the Trump administration picked back in September. The DACA status doesn't auto-renew and on Sept. 5, the Department of Homeland Security explained that a DACA recipient whose two-year permit was set to expire by March 5 would have 30 days to apply for renewal.

This meant Dreamers whose work permits were set to expire between Sept. 5 and March 5 had only one month — until Oct. 5 — to reapply for the DACA program. Shortly after October renewal deadline, Homeland Security estimated that around 21,000-22,000 young immigrants did not submit their DACA renewal applications in time. This means an average of 122 young immigrants are already losing their DACA protections each day until March 5. Immigrants whose permits expired on March 5 or later didn't even have the opportunity to reapply.

“There’s no emergency," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in December on ABC's This Week. "The president has given us to March to address it.” Unfortunately, this lack of urgency belies the fact that every day, more young immigrants are becoming at risk of losing their jobs and being deported.