CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – University of Illinois officials say the decision from President Donald Trump’s administration to wind down a program protecting young immigrants from deportation creates uncertainty for some students.
The university system’s president and chancellors of its campuses in Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield sent a letter to students, faculty and staff Tuesday afternoon. Earlier Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the program known as DACA is an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
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UI officials say eliminating DACA “is inconsistent with our commitment to accessible and high-quality education for all qualified and deserving students.”
School officials say they will comply with federal law. However they say they pledge to assist and support students and will continue to protect confidential student and employee information “to the fullest extent allowed by law.”
WHAT IS DACA?
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by President Barack Obama in 2012 after intense pressure from immigrant advocates who wanted protections for young immigrants who were brought illegally to the country as children or came with families that overstayed visas, were mostly raised in the U.S. but lacked legal status.
The program protects them from deportation, granting them a two-year reprieve that can be extended and by issuing them a social security numbers and work permits.
DACA recipients must have no criminal record, proof they were brought to the U.S. before age 16 and be under 31 when the program was launched but at least 15 years old when applying. The application cost is nearly $500 and permits must be renewed every two years.
DACA does not give beneficiaries legal U.S. residency. Recipients get temporary reprieves from deportation and permission to temporarily work. Nearly 800,000 people are enrolled.
Frustration grew during the administration of President Barack Obama over repeated failures to pass the “Dream Act,” which would have provided a path to legal U.S. citizenship for the young immigrants who ended up becoming DACA beneficiaries and became known as “dreamers.”
The last major attempt to pass the legislation was in 2011. Immigrant activists staged protests and participated in civil disobedience in an effort to push Obama to act after Congress did not pass legislation. DACA is different than the Dream Act because it does not provide a pathway to legal residency or citizenship.
WHY END DACA?
President Donald Trump was under pressure from several states that threatened to sue his administration if it did not rescind DACA.
They argued the order that Obama issued creating the program was unconstitutional and that Congress should take charge of legislation to deal with the issue.
Immigrant advocates, business leaders including the chief executives of Apple and Microsoft, clergy and many others put intense pressure on Trump to maintain the program but he decided to end it.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
Young immigrants already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If their permits expire before March, 5, 2018, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. If their permits expire beyond that March date, they will not be able to renew and could be subject to deportation when their permits expire.
People who miss the October deadline will be disqualified from renewing their permission to remain in the country and could face deportation, although the Trump administration has said it will not actively provide their information to immigration authorities.
It will be up to Congress to take up and pass legislation providing them a path to legalization. One bill introduced this year would provide a path to legal permanent residency.
Many DACA beneficiaries say they worry they will have to take lower-wage, under-the-table jobs and will not be able to pay for college or assist their families financially.
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