Trump ends policy protecting undocumented immigrant families

WASHINGTON DC, USA (UPDATED)  – The Trump administration is canceling an Obama-era policy to allow millions of undocumented immigrant parents of US-born children to stay in the country.

But in a statement late Thursday, June 15, the government said it would keep the "Dreamers" program that allows people who entered the United States illegally as children to stay if they are in school or working.

President Donald Trump had threatened to axe the Dreamers program, which would have put an estimated 1.7 million people, many of them undocumented students in US schools, at risk of deportation.

For now the "Dreamers" program – officially, the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – will remain in place, the Homeland Security Department said.

But the 2014 policy to protect from deportation an estimated 3.6 million undocumented parents of children born in the country, many of them established US residents, is being rescinded, DHS said.

That policy, known as DAPA – for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents – has never been implemented due to court challenges.

After the Obama administration announced it, 26 states successfully sued in a Texas federal district court to block the program. Last year the US Supreme Court deadlocked on the case, with the effect that the lower court ruling stood.

After the Supreme Court decision, DHS Secretary John Kelly said that "there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy."

But the announcement, which DHS said was supported by the Justice Department, made no suggestion of a replacement policy in the works, leaving those potentially protected by DAPA again at risk of deportation.

'We will continue to fight'

The move comes amid a tough crackdown on illegal immigration ordered by President Donald Trump. During last year's presidential campaign he had pledged to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and to end the Dreamers program.

Since taking office in January, the government has said its crackdown will focus on illegal immigrants with criminal records and those linked to violent gangs.

But raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have caught up many people with minor legal violations and families that have lived in the country for decades.

Pro-migrant groups were cautiously supportive of the stance on Dreamers, though unhappy that DACA would only allow qualifying people to stay in the country on two-year permits before they have to reapply, rather than the three-year permits Obama had set in 2014.

The Trump administration "now says it won't go backward on DACA," said Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, in a tweet.

"We'll be watching ICE to hold you to it."

"The rescission blocks much-needed deportation relief for our families, as they will be vulnerable to Trump's deportation machine," said Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Action Coalition. 

"We will not let President Trump rip apart families, and we will continue to fight for the 11 million undocumented families until we secure permanent legislative relief," he said in a statement. – Rappler.com