Trump administration says it will reject new DACA applications while weighing future of the program

DACA recipients and supporters rally in celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the program outside of the Immgration and Customs Enforcement offices in Phoenix in June. (Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic via REUTERS)

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it will reject new applications for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program despite a federal judge’s order earlier this month that new applicants should be given consideration.

The judge's order came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t follow proper procedure when it ended the program in 2017 and allowed DACA to stand. But on Tuesday, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said he was instructing staff “to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA” and exercise its authority to “to terminate or deny deferred action at any time when immigration officials determine termination or denial of deferred action is appropriate.”

As of December 2019, there were about 107,000 Texans with DACA permits, according to federal statistics. The program applies to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they were 16 and who were 30 or younger as of June 2012. The program gave them a renewable, two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation.

The DHS announcement on Tuesday also limits the protection for recipients who renew their DACA permits to one year instead of the original 24 months.

“As the Department continues looking at the policy and considers future action, the fact remains that Congress should act on this matter,” Wolf said in a statement. “There are important policy reasons that may warrant the full rescission of the DACA policy.”

Even after what many believed was a loss for the Trump administration at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, the president said he was instead given time to figure out how to end the program.

“The Supreme Court asked us to resubmit on DACA, nothing was lost or won,” Trump tweeted at the time. But he made statements arguing he had the power implement action on DACA that would protect young immigrants, though he was unclear on details.

If the Wolf memo issued Tuesday is any indicator, the White House will likely put pressure on Congress to act and blame lawmakers if there is not a comprehensive solution in the late months of a contentious election year.

“Even if the DACA policy could have been justified as a temporary measure when it was created, Congress arguably has had more than sufficient time to consider affording permanent status or immigration relief to the class of aliens covered by the policy,” Wolf wrote. “And yet, although various proposals have been advanced to do that, Congress has so far declined to take action.”