What happens if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is removed?

The new presidential administration could repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which would leave many people fearful of deportation.

Years ago, legislators sought to enact The DREAM Act, which would have helped children who came into the United States as undocumented immigrants. The act intended to provide a path to citizenship or legal status for these people if they served in the military or attended college. The act failed to pass, spurring then-President Barack Obama to issue an executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump stated that he would issue an executive order to rescind DACA. Here, we look at what that could mean for people who are in this situation.

What DACA says

DACA grants youth who came here as undocumented immigrants a temporary permission to stay. Essentially, it prevents the people who qualify for it from being deported. It should be noted that DACA does not, as The Dream Act would have, give people a path to legal status. It does enable them to apply for and obtain a work permit. The length of time for deferred action is between two and three years, depending on when it is granted. People may apply to renew their DACA status.

Several times, congressional leaders have re-introduced The DREAM Act. Unfortunately, it has yet to pass. If it does, however, anyone covered under DACA would be protected.

If DACA is repealed

Many people understandably have concerns about what will happen if DACA is repealed. According to the National Immigration Law Center, people who already have protection under DACA would not necessarily be at a higher risk of being deported than people who are undocumented immigrants without DACA. In fact, people with DACA are considered to be low on the priority list, as undocumented immigrants with criminal records would likely be addressed first. However, the current administration could change even this priority situation.

The threat of deportation

The deportation process begins with a notice to appear before an immigration judge. The judge determines whether or not the person is permitted to stay in the country. Even if the judge orders that the person be removed, it is possible to appeal the decision through requesting a cancellation of removal. For undocumented immigrants, it will be necessary to show the following:

  • They have been in the country for a continuous period of at least 10 years.
  • They do not have any disqualifying criminal convictions.
  • They have had a "good moral character" while in the country.
  • They have someone legally in the country who would suffer hardship if removed.

This is a delicate and ever-changing situation fraught with questions and concerns. Anyone who needs more information or assistance should speak with an immigration attorney.