How Trump administration will handle DACA beneficiaries during six-month phase-out.

Trump Tells Dreamers They “Have Nothing to Worry About” for Six Months. Is He Right?

Trump Tells Dreamers They “Have Nothing to Worry About” for Six Months. Is He Right?

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Sept. 7 2017 4:10 PM

Trump Says Dreamers “Have Nothing to Worry About”

He pledges “no action!” on DACA beneficiaries during the next six months. Here’s exactly what that means.

Pro DACA Rally
Alliance San Diego and other pro-DACA supporters hold a protest rally in front of the San Diego County Administration Center on Tuesday.

John Gastaldo/Reuters

President Trump tweeted an odd reassurance Thursday morning to the DACA beneficiaries whose lives he recently threw into uncertainty. Just two days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the policy, to come after a six-month phase-out. Trump informed Dreamers “that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period” that “you have nothing to worry about - No action!”

Mark Joseph Stern Mark Joseph Stern

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.

Some commentators quickly slammed the tweet as a misleading falsehood; MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called it “dangerous and irresponsible,” and the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman claimed it was untrue. But Trump isn’t necessarily lying. If Dreamers follow the guidelines laid out Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security, they can maintain their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program status through at least the next six months. However, these rules—laid out in a memo and FAQ—are rather dense. On Wednesday, I spoke with DHS press secretary David Lapan to unpack the details of the new timeline. Here is a clearer FAQ outlining the parameters of DACA’s wind-down, which will be carried out by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency responsible for implementing the policy.

Advertisement

I am eligible for DACA and submitted my application last month. Will USCIS process it?

Yes. USCIS will process all new DACA applications that were accepted as of Sept. 5. Your DACA status will last for two years, as usual.

I don’t have DACA yet, but I’m eligible. Can I still apply?

No. USCIS began rejecting all new applicants from Sept. 5 onward.

Advertisement

I have DACA status, but it expires sometime in the next six months. Can I apply for a renewal?

Yes, but you must apply soon. USCIS will process renewal requests made by individuals whose DACA status expires between now and March 5, 2018. But it will only process applications received by Oct. 5, 2017. The window is closing fast.

If I meet these criteria and apply for a renewal, is USCIS required to grant it?

No, but barring another major policy shift, it almost certainly will. DACA is technically a “discretionary determination” meaning that, in theory, USCIS agents can deny your application if they choose to. In practice, though, USCIS has granted DACA status to everyone who is eligible and provides the necessary documentation. Currently, the agency only promises to “adjudicate” renewal applications “on an individual, case-by-case basis.” But it has not indicated that it will begin denying applications arbitrarily.

Advertisement

I have DACA and my status won’t expire until 2019. Will USCIS cancel it before then?

Probably not. USCIS shouldn’t cancel any existing DACA statuses without cause, though the Trump administration argues that it can.

What would give USCIS cause to cancel my DACA status?

Dreamers who are convicted of a felony, a “serious misdemeanor,” or three “other misdemeanors” may lose their DACA status. A serious misdemeanor includes domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking, and driving under the influence. It also encompasses any crime for which an individual is sentenced to imprisonment for more than 90 days, not including a suspended sentence. USCIS can also revoke DACA status if it concludes that you “pose a threat to national security or public safety.” The Trump administration has asserted broad leeway to detain and deport Dreamers it deems are dangerous.

Advertisement

My DACA status expires on March 1, 2018. If I renew now, will it be extended through March 1, 2020?

No. USCIS will start the clock as soon as your renewal request has been granted. If your request is granted on Dec. 15, 2017, for example, it will expire on Dec. 15, 2019.

My DACA status expires on March 6, 2018. Can I renew it now?

No. You cannot renew your DACA status if it expires after March 5, 2018.

Advertisement

What will happen to me when my status expires?

You will lose your work permit. If you attend a public college, you may lose in-state tuition or be expelled altogether, depending on your state. It is not yet clear whether the military will discharge enrolled DACA beneficiaries. You will also be subject to deportation. USCIS will not voluntarily provide your information to immigration enforcement agents. But if these officers ask for your information, USCIS will give it to them. The White House has said that former Dreamers will not be “a priority for deportation.”

I previously received approval to travel out of the country. Will DHS still honor it?

Possibly, but there’s no guarantee. USCIS has declared that DACA beneficiaries with permission to leave and re-enter the country—known as “advance parole”—will “generally retain the benefit until it expires.” But it added that Customs and Border Protection “will retain the authority it has always exercised in determining the admissibility of any person presenting at the border.” Moreover, USCIS may “revoke or terminate an advance parole document at any time.” This ominous language suggests that Dreamers should try to remain in the United States if possible.

Advertisement

My DACA status lasts through 2019, and I would like to apply for advance parole to leave the country next year. Can I?

No. USCIS will not grant any new advance parole. Dreamers who leave the country without permission may be denied re-entry and could see their DACA status permanently revoked.

I applied for advance parole but haven’t heard back yet. Might it still be approved?

No. USCIS will close all pending applications for advance parole and refund the fees.

What is the Trump administration’s advice for DACA beneficiaries whose statuses will expire in 2018?

In the administration’s talking points, DHS urges Dreamers to “prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States” once their status expires.

One more thing

The Trump administration poses a unique threat to the rule of law. That’s why Slate has stepped up our legal coverage—watchdogging Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, the Supreme Court, the crackdown on voting rights, and more.

Our work is reaching more readers than ever—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help.

If you think Slate’s journalism matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.

Join Slate Plus