WASHINGTON ― Days after sending out his attorney general to rescind a program that protects undocumented young people and accuse them of stealing jobs, President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that those so-called Dreamers “have nothing to worry about” ― for six months, at least.
He did so in response to a request from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who told some Democratic lawmakers that she spoke to Trump by phone on Thursday morning and “asked him to tweet this to make clear DREAMers won’t be subject to deportation in 6 month window,” according to a Democratic aide.
The tweet came after two days of Trump trying to have it both ways on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave two-year work permits and deportation protections to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
After following through on a campaign promise to end the program, which he said was unconstitutional, the president has insisted he wants to do something to help Dreamers and will work with Congress to do so over the next six months.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call.
It makes sense that Democrats would want to quell some of the fears of Dreamers, many of whom are panicking over a decision that could cause them to lose their jobs and be expelled from the country.
It’s also true that DACA recipients won’t begin to lose their deportation protections until at least six months from now. Some will keep them even longer: The Department of Homeland Security is still reviewing applications from new DACA applicants if they were submitted by Sept. 5. DHS will also renew DACA for eligible current recipients if their permits expire between Sept. 5 and March 5, but they must submit their applications by Oct. 5.
But rescinding DACA still poses a real risk for Dreamers. Some have permits that will expire after March 5, meaning they won’t be able to apply to renew them. Others don’t have permits yet and have not applied, and now won’t be able to. Even if people are eligible to apply for renewal, it’s likely some won’t be able to pay the $495 fee without more time to save.
The most important question will be what happens to Dreamers after the six-month period if Congress and Trump don’t make a deal ― which is a very real possibility given the many past failures on the matter, even if lawmakers in both parties are currently insisting they want to work out a compromise to help Dreamers.
The White House reportedly sent talking points to Capitol Hill that suggested DACA recipients should leave the country. “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States ― including proactively seeking travel documentation ― or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible,” the memo said, according to CNN.
DHS spokesman David Lapan told CNN they “expect Congress to pass legislation so this will hopefully be a moot point,” but always encourage undocumented individuals to depart voluntarily or try to find legal avenues to gain status.
DHS officials have said they have no plans to affirmatively go after DACA recipients in the event that they lose their permits. But many Dreamers are afraid anyway, based on other Trump policies. Trump has said immigration agents should be unleashed to do what they believe is best, and he instructed officials to revoke Obama-era guidelines of who should be pursued for deportation.
Since those policies were changed, immigration advocates and attorneys said they have seen a greater number of individuals who were allowed to stay in the country for years being picked up ― particularly if they have removal orders, which many DACA recipients do. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reported large numbers of “collateral” arrests of people they were not initially targeting in enforcement operations and a greater proportion of arrests of non-criminals since Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period under Obama’s final year.
ICE acting director Thomas Homan said in June that all undocumented immigrants should be afraid of being detained.
“If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable,” he said at the time. “You should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”