A U.S. Capitol Police Officer gives a warning as supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program chain themselves together to block an intersection March 5, 2018, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
BY BRIDGET JOHNSON
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that, with Monday’s deadline passing for Congress to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the public needs to understand the “rare instances” under which a beneficiary might be deported.
DHS acting press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would continue to accept renewals from illegal immigrants brought to the country illegally as children who have already been registered under the program, per court injunctions.
Houlton said that “absent additional negative factors, DACA recipients are not a priority or target group for arrest or removal.”
“With the general exception of certain classes of aliens – including those who otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety – an individual who is a current DACA recipient, or who was a previous DACA recipient but has filed for renewal, will not be targeted for arrest nor will be removed from the United States while the individual has DACA protections or while the DACA renewal request is pending,” he explained, noting the importance of filing renewals at least 120 days in advance as employment authorization isn’t retroactive if a permit is allowed to lapse.
“We encourage qualifying persons to file a request, and ask that the public understand that there will be cases of DACA recipients who lose their deferred action due to violations of the terms of DACA – including criminal conduct,” Houlton added. “This is not unusual and under the prior administration more than a thousand recipients were removed from DACA. These rare instances do not indicate a change in the Department’s current position and should be viewed in that light.”
At a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) urged DACA beneficiaries to renew their status and for Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act without elements sought by the White House including limits on family reunification and an end to the diversity visa lottery.
“The courts have given DREAMers a little more time to renew their status and I hope that everyone who is eligible will seize the opportunity to do so,” she said. “But it is not a permanent solution. Only legislation can provide that.”
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), who was born in Guatemala and came to the country at age 5, said DACA “isn’t just some abstract policy idea” to her as “I know what it’s like to come to this country by no choice of my own.”
“The last thing that DREAMers want is the uncertainty and fear that has come to fill their lives every single day that Congress fails to act,” Torres said. “The 800,000 young people who qualified for DACA grew up here in our communities. They play Little League with our kids, they go to school with our kids, and now many of them are going to college with our kids.”
At the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit, President Trump said he’s “trying to have a DACA victory for everybody.”
“And the Democrats are nowhere to be found. They’re nowhere to be found. It’s really terrible. We’re ready. You know the expression, ‘Ready, willing, and able.’ We’re ready, willing, and able. They are nowhere to be found,” he said.
“This is our time. This is our moment. Go get DACA. Go push those Democrats. I’m telling you,” Trump said later in his address. “So this is a moment for DACA, for all of us. But this is a very special moment. A lot of tremendous things can happen here. Right now, so many tremendous things can happen if people want them to happen. This is how we are taking care of our people, taking care of our country.”