The fate of the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has been unclear for months. As a candidate, Donald Trump said the programs' beneficiaries -- children, known as "Dreamers," who entered the country illegally at a young age -- would be subject to deportations, but as president, Trump said the kids could "rest easy."
Soon after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asked about these young immigrants' fate, said, "Well, we'll see. I believe that everyone who enters the country illegally is subject to being deported."
Friday brought some clarity to the issue: the White House announced that while President Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) is no more, DACA would remain in place. In effect, young people who benefited from Obama's policies don't have to worry about deportation, and they can continue to receive work permits, but their parents may yet have a problem.
And at first, the continuation of the status quo -- DAPA was blocked in the courts -- seemed largely encouraging for Dreamers and their allies. But the details matter: these young immigrants aren't in the clear yet. The New York Times reported:
President Trump will not immediately eliminate protections for the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children, according to new memorandums issued by the administration on Thursday night.But White House officials said on Friday morning that Mr. Trump had not made a decision about the long-term fate of the program and might yet follow through on a campaign pledge to take away work permits from the immigrants or deport them.
A Politico report added, "The future of an Obama-era deportation relief program remains undecided." Indeed, in a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, "The future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the administration."
As a political matter, the clarification was probably intended to buy some time. In the wake of media reports on Friday that Trump was letting Dreamers stay in the United States -- indeed, the Republican administration was keeping a major Obama priority in place -- many of Trump's far-right supporters were not at all pleased.
The follow-up reports hoped to assuage those concerns. "Don't worry," administration officials seemed to be saying to the far-right. "Those kids may yet be deported."
And though we don't yet have a timeline of what this means in practical terms -- a new DACA policy could be announced at practically any time, or it may never be unveiled at all -- all of this serves as a reminder that Friday's exhale was probably premature. Dreamers remain in legal jeopardy, and the prospect of Trump changing direction remains real.