MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- President Donald Trump will phase out a program that has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children from being deported.
In the five years since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was enacted, nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants have been allowed to stay in the country.
“The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty among other things contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at a Justice Department news conference.
The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and has formally rescinded the Obama administration policy.
“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” announced Sessions.
But the agency also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the US.
No one’s DACA status will be revoked before it expires, administration officials said, and any applications already received by Tuesday will be processed.
Anyone whose status expires by March 5 has one month to apply for a new two-year permit, and those applications will be processed.
If Congress were not to act, and DACA begins to expire, nearly 300,000 people could begin to lose their status in 2018, and more than 320,000 would lose their status from January to August 2019. More than 200,000 recipients have their DACA status expiring in the window that DHS will allow renewal.
"This is my home. This is our home, and together is how we make this country great," Olga Burks said a few hours after hearing Sessions' announcement.
Burks has lived in Memphis since she was 12 years old.
"I graduated high school with honors," she explained.
Her family came here from Honduras. She is part of the DACA, one of some 8,300 DACA recipients in Tennessee.
Now 25, she’s a paralegal and married. Her husband is a US citizen.
She listened to the news conference by Sessions Tuesday rescinding DACA.
"The only reason I'm not a citizen is because I don’t have a paper that says I’m a citizen. I feel betrayed by my own country," said Burks.
"Basically it’s going to be a two-year phase out. Because slowly their cards are going to expire and they’re not going to have that opportunity to renew," explained attorney Stacie Hammond.
Hammond is working with Latino Memphis. She said now they’re working on a plan to help people renew DACA before an October 5 deadline. They also plan to do intake clinics.
"This is affecting maybe the classmate that maybe you went to school with, this is affecting your neighbor, this is affecting your church member, let's be humane," said Burks.
Latino Memphis is asking you to reach out a local lawmaker to make sure Congress acts to keep DACA recipients here.