Trump pol­icy on DACA riles con­ser­va­tives

Num­ber of amnesties on pace with Obama

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has ap­proved tens of thou­sands of tem­po­rary amnesties for il­le­gal im­mi­grant Dream­ers, ac­cord­ing to num­bers re­leased Thurs­day that un­der­score a ma­jor re­ver­sal for Pres­i­dent Trump.

The de­ci­sion has en­raged the pres­i­dent’s con­ser­va­tive base, which hoped he would make good on his prom­ise to re­voke the pol­icy, known in gov­ern­ments­peak as DACA.

But im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates, who were harshly crit­i­cal of Mr. Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, said he de­serves some credit for de­fy­ing his right wing and keep­ing the pro­gram in­tact.

“I def­i­nitely think that he does de­serve credit for con­tin­u­ing a very suc­cess­ful pro­gram for young

peo­ple who grew up here,” said Ce­sar Var­gas, a Dreamer who is now a prac­tic­ing lawyer.

Mr. Trump ap­pears to be main­tain­ing the pace of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, with more than 17,000 new two-year amnesties and more than 107,000 re­newal ap­pli­ca­tions ap­proved from Jan. 1 to March 30. Both num­bers are com­pa­ra­ble to the fi­nal full three months of Pres­i­dent Obama’s ten­ure.

All told, some 780,000 Dream­ers have been granted DACA sta­tus un­der the 2012 pro­gram, amount­ing to a 92 per­cent ap­proval rate. DACA pro­tects against de­por­ta­tion for two years and grants work per­mits and en­ti­tles the im­mi­grants to ben­e­fits such as driver’s li­censes and some tax cred­its.

Greisa Mar­tinez, ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor at United We Dream, a na­tion­wide group of Dream­ers, said she ap­pre­ci­ated the con­tin­u­a­tion of the pro­gram but added that Mr. Trump was bow­ing to po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties.

“The credit goes to the com­mu­nity and the sup­port­ers who did not al­low him to keep his prom­ise,” she said.

“He’s mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion. The pres­i­dent’s al­ready un­pop­u­lar. What does it look like to go af­ter im­mi­grant young peo­ple?” said Ms. Mar­tinez, a DACA re­cip­i­ent. “He didn’t win the pres­i­dency by not be­ing con­nected to what the right po­lit­i­cal moves are.”

The Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment re­ferred ques­tions about the de­ci­sion to the White House, which didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day.

But Mr. Trump has pub­licly strug­gled with how to han­dle Dream­ers.

At some times he sug­gested that they would be de­ported, but at other times he said he would try to find a so­lu­tion to make all sides happy.

To qual­ify for DACA, il­le­gal im­mi­grants must have come to the U.S. as chil­dren, been in the coun­try by 2007, been 30 or younger as of 2012 and have pur­sued their high school diploma. DACA re­cip­i­ents are granted work per­mits en­ti­tling them to So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, driver’s li­censes and other tax­payer ben­e­fits.

This week, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly said he would like Congress to grant a more per­ma­nent sta­tus to Dream­ers.

“I am hop­ing, frankly, be­cause there is bi­par­ti­san sup­port … for do­ing some­thing about DACA legally, leg­isla­tively,” Mr. Kelly told the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Trump’s base was an­gered by Mr. Kelly’s sug­ges­tion of per­ma­nent le­gal sta­tus.

“Fire this il­le­gal alien amnesty backer,” said Wil­liam Gheen at Amer­i­cans for Le­gal Im­mi­gra­tion Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee, which backed Mr. Trump early in his elec­tion cam­paign.

Some Trump op­er­a­tives had worked on an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to re­peal DACA at the be­gin­ning of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. They con­cluded that the pro­gram would be frozen, with no new ap­provals, but those with cur­rent DACA sta­tus would be al­lowed to see out the rest of their two-year terms.

Those ef­forts never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

Matt O’Brien, a for­mer of­fi­cial of U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices who is now research di­rec­tor at the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, said Mr. Trump should have fol­lowed through on the halt.

“I think the ad­min­is­tra­tion should stop the new ap­provals and, quite frankly, I think they should be al­low­ing the ex­ist­ing ap­provals to ex­pire,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Even as the pres­i­dent al­lows the pro­gram to re­main in­tact, im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates have com­plained that some Dream­ers are still be­ing de­ported.

They have staged ral­lies and cam­paigns around sev­eral high-pro­file cases, in­clud­ing that of Jes­sica Colotl, a Ge­or­gia wo­man who came to the U.S. at 11 but who now faces de­por­ta­tion. Home­land Se­cu­rity re­voked her DACA sta­tus, which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion twice ap­proved.

In a fed­eral court hear­ing in At­lanta on Thurs­day, her at­tor­neys said the re­vo­ca­tion was bo­gus and pleaded with a judge to or­der her DACA re­stored.

“I want to make sure that DACA re­cip­i­ents are pro­tected. That’s why this case is so im­por­tant for me per­son­ally and for the com­mu­nity,” Ms. Colotl said af­ter the hear­ing.

Home­land Se­cu­rity ini­tially said Ms. Colotl was be­ing de­ported be­cause she ad­mit­ted to ly­ing to a po­lice of­fi­cer af­ter a traf­fic stop in Ge­or­gia. But the gov­ern­ment has since said that is not the case.

In­stead, gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys told the judge Thurs­day that she may meet all the cri­te­ria for DACA yet still fall within “en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties,” The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

A rul­ing is ex­pected next week.

Ms. Mar­tinez, the ad­vo­cate from United We Dream, said even as Mr. Trump has con­tin­ued to process DACA ap­pli­ca­tions, he should rein in de­por­ta­tion agents.

“I’m proud the pro­gram still stands and I get to keep my job and my DACA. But you are see­ing the nib­bling of the edges of the pro­gram by the agents,” she said. “The next steps are for them to get con­trol of the agency.”

Jes­sica Colotl, who re­ceived a tem­po­rary amnesty un­der the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, is now fight­ing a de­por­ta­tion or­der in court.

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