Despite earlier hints that the “Dreamers” – undocumented youth who were brought to the United States illegally or lost their status while they were underage – might be allowed to retain their work permits and reprieve from deportation, Attorney General Sessions announced today that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will end on March 5, 2018.  The six-month lag time is intended to allow Congress to codify DACA-like provisions into law.

According to today’s White House release:

  • September 5, 2017 (today), is the last day that initial DACA applications will be accepted for processing at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • October 5, 2017, is the last day that renewal DACA applications may be filed;
  • USCIS will immediately stop approving applications for advance parole from DACA applicants/recipients, including any currently pending applications.

Advance parole is a form of travel permission that can, under a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision, make DACA recipients eligible to apply for green cards when they return from travel, if they have an independent basis to do so, such as a sponsoring family member or a permanent job offer from a U.S. employer.  Without travel under advance parole, DACA recipients are not considered to be lawfully present and therefore cannot become permanent residents in the United States, even if they do have an employer or family sponsor.

One possible congressional action between now and the end of the DACA program is passage of the bipartisan bill introduced in December by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), “Bar Removal of Immigrants Who Dream and Grow the Economy,” or BRIDGE Act, which would provide a 3-year period of “provisional protected presence” for the same population of approximately 800,000 Dreamers.  If the BRIDGE Act becomes law, it is not clear whether current DACA recipients would have to reapply and pay new filing fees and/or undergo new security clearances.

It has been reported that 97 percent of current DACA recipients are either in school or in the workforce, and that if they lose their employment eligibility, the turnover will cost U.S. employers more than $6 billion.  The Center for American Progress has also reported that, because DACA recipients are working for large and small companies across the country, the resulting job losses could cost the U.S. economy more than $460 billion in GDP loss over the next decade.