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 Thursday night. But White House officials said 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.
The Department of Homeland Security announced that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits so they can find legal employment. A fact sheet posted on the department’s website says immigrants enrolled in the 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “will continue to be eligible” to renew every two years and notes that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”
A news release from the department said flatly that “the June 15, 2012, memorandum that created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will remain in effect.”
But officials at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security said Friday morning that those statements were intended only to clarify that immigrants enrolled in the DACA program would not immediately be affected by a separate action officially ending a similar program for the illegal immigrants who have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents. “There has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the department. He added that John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, “has noted that Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue.”
Immigration rights activists, initially hailed the announcement, calling it a surprising turn of events from Mr. Trump. But after the White House clarified its intent, activists expressed regret.
Asked repeatedly about his intentions for the program since he took office, the president has hinted that he would not try to deport the Dreamers. But immigration activists had remained worried that the administration might still eliminate the program.
The announcement that the DACA program will continue for the time being, came as the administration formally ended Mr. Obama’s attempt to expand it to also cover the parents of the Dreamers.