President Donald Trump's team is moving to end an Obama-era program that has deferred deportation for about 800,000 immigrants in the country illegally, something Trump pledged to do during the campaign.
But the move also gives Congress time to step in and keep the program in place. If that happens -- and it's far from certain it would -- it would be a reversal of Trump's promise.
The program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, put a temporary halt to the deportation of immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children and who have grown up in the country going to school or working.
"We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in his Sept. 5 announcement to rescind DACA.
Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said the decision was not taken lightly, but was an attempt to reconcile the program with existing law.
"As a result of recent litigation, we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately," Duke said in a statement. "We chose the least disruptive option."
The Trump administration said no current beneficiaries will be impacted before March 5, 2018, giving Congress time to act.
"Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!" Trump tweeted Sept. 5.
The administration will adjudicate, on an individual, case-by-case basis applications filed by Sept. 5, but will reject any new, initial requests filed after that date, senior DHS officials said. Individuals who currently have DACA and whose protection expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018 can apply to renew it by Oct. 5, 2017.
Immigrants who currently have DACA will continue to benefit from deportation reprieve up to their application's validity period.
People who came forward to participate in the program were spared from deportation, as immigration officials exercised prosecutorial discretion and did not prioritize them for removal.
A June 2012 memo from then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano cited the people's lack of intent to break the rules.
"As a general matter, these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law, and our ongoing review of pending removal cases is already offering administrative closure to many of them," Napolitano said. "However, additional measures are necessary to ensure that our enforcement resources are not expended on these low priority cases but are instead appropriately focused on people who meet our enforcement priorities."
Duke rescinded that memo.
DACA did not grant recipients legal status, but it was renewable every two years, and they were also eligible to apply for work permits. (See our previous story for more information on age and background requirements for program eligibility.)
As a presidential candidate, Trump criticized DACA as unconstitutional and said he would "immediately" terminate it if elected. But since he has been in office, an estimated 100,000 people have been approved for the program.
After the election, Trump expressed more sympathetic views toward DACA recipients, so-called "Dreamers." "Dreamers" is a nickname initially used for potential beneficiaries of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) — legislation that never passed but that was designed to help this group of immigrants.
"We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," Trump told Time magazine in an interview after the Nov. 8 election. "They got brought here at a very young age, they've worked here, they've gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they're in never-never land because they don't know what's going to happen."
At a Feb. 16 press conference, Trump said DACA was a "very, very difficult subject" for him and that "we're going to deal with DACA with heart."
"I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang," Trump said in a Sept. 5 statement.
Trump's decision to end DACA came by the Sept. 5 deadline set by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, attorneys general from nine other states, and the governor of Idaho.
In a June 29 letter to Sessions, they requested that the secretary of Homeland Security phase out DACA, rescind the June 2012 memo, and that there be no more approvals for new, renewal or expanded DACA applications.
If by Sept. 5 the administration had not rescinded DACA, the states would sue the administration over the program, the letter said.
Texas and 25 other states won a separate legal challenge against the Obama administration by having a federal district judge block the implementation of another deportation reprieve program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and an expanded version of DACA. An appeals court upheld the ruling, and in 2016 the Supreme Court ruled 4-4 on the case, leaving in place the lower court's ruling.
Sessions said DACA was created as an overreach of the Obama administration, not by the legislative body and that it was vulnerable to the same legal challenges DAPA faced.
"We firmly believe this is the responsible path," Sessions said about the winding down of DACA.
Trump's latest actions are in line with his campaign promise, though it's possible that Congress may act to allow Dreamers to stay. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed their support and pledged to pass legislation to favor Dreamers. Trump has set a deadline for DACA, but immigrants can still apply to renew their current applications.
So Trump is moving toward ending the program while giving Congress an opportunity to keep it. We will continue to monitor this campaign pledge closely. For now, we rate his pledge to terminate Obama's deferred action programs as In the Works.