U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to end a program that protects young undocumented immigrants — a group also known as ‘the Dreamers.’
The Obama-era program, initiated in 2012, allows young immigrants who were brought to the country as children, to live, study and work in the U.S.
But on Tuesday, Trump may announce plans to scrap the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), that protects the so-called Dreamers from deportation.
The term Dreamers comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered immigrants legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. The bill was first introduced in Congress in 2001 but never passed.
In the last few years, the term Dreamers has been used to describe young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
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In 2012, then-president Barack Obama used executive action and created DACA. The program protects immigrants, mostly children, who are in the U.S. illegally. To be eligible, an applicant must have arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and lived in the country since June 15, 2007.
Those applying are vetted for any criminal history or threat to national security, and must be a student or have completed school or military service.
The program mimicked versions of the DREAM Act.
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About 800,000 people are covered under the policy. Mexico is by far the biggest country of origin, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to U.S. documents. More than 200,000 live in California, while 100,000 are in Texas. New York, Illinois and Florida also have large numbers.
The program does not grant legal status to immigrants, but the protection allows them to receive authorization to work legally in the U.S., and in certain states, apply for driver’s licences.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump promised to get rid of DACA and make the deportation of the illegal immigrants in the country a top priority. On Tuesday, he is expected to announce to end the program in six months, giving Congress time to come up with a potential replacement.
If the program is scrapped, the 800,000 Dreamers in the U.S. can face detention and deportation.
DACA supporters argue that the people it protects grew up and were educated in the United States and were integrated into American society, with little connection to the countries in which they are citizens. Opponents of the program argue that illegal immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens.
Republican state officials are threatening to sue the Trump administration on Sept. 5, if the president does not end the program.
Trump has been wrestling for months with what to do with the program. Although he once slammed DACA as illegal “amnesty” and vowed to eliminate it, since he took the presidency, Trump has wavered on the issue.
In February, Trump said he would “deal with DACA with heart,” and called the matter “one of the most difficult subjects I have.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and a number of other legislators urged Trump last week to hold off on scrapping DACA to give them time to come up with a legislative fix.
“These are kids who know no other country, who are brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe that there needs to be a legislative solution,” Ryan told Wisconsin radio station WCLO.
But Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has called DACA unconstitutional, warned that a delay in dismantling it would amount to “Republican suicide.”
On Sunday, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Thanks to Dreamers’ courage & resolve, #DACA has allowed thousands of young people to contribute to our society. We’re better for it.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “If Trump decides to end DACA, it will be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in our modern history.”
Leading business figures including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have also rallied in defence of the program and the Dreamers.
“These young people represent the future of our country and our economy. They are our friends and family, students and young leaders in our communities,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post, late on Thursday.
*With files from the Associated Press and Reuters
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