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Trump May End DACA in 6 Months, Fueling Uncertainty for Undocumented Students

President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he will end a program that has allowed some 800,000 young immigrants to live, work, and study in the United States without fear of immediate deportation. His action may be delayed for six months to give Congress a chance to act, according to reports published over the weekend.

The reports, and the possibility that the president could change his mind again, intensify the anxiety and uncertainty of the Dreamers, as they are known, who were brought to the United States illegally as infants or children. For most of them, the United States is the only home they’ve known, and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program could make them vulnerable to deportation.

The more immediate threat, for many, is that they could lose the two-year-renewal work permits that have allowed them to pursue careers and pay their way through college. It is unclear whether the permits would be allowed to expire or would end immediately after six months.

It is also unclear what would happen if, after six months, Congress failed to pass legislation protecting the Dreamers. Versions of the the Dream Act, first introduced in 2001, have been voted on and defeated several times since then, and getting the Republican-controlled Congress to approve the 2017 version could be an uphill battle. Not only has anti-immigrant sentiment grown in recent years, but Congress faces a number of daunting tasks, including raising the debt ceiling, coming up with a recovery package for the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast, and dealing with the nuclear threat from North Korea.

An alternative to the Dream Act is a bipartisan bill, the Bridge Act, whose key sponsors are U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. It would provide work authorization and a temporary reprieve from deportation, but unlike the Dream Act, it would not provide a path to citizenship.

Ted Mitchell, president of the the American Council on Education, urged Congress to consider either the Dream Act or the Bridge Act in a statement decrying Mr. Trump’s reported decision. “Taking action to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, even with a reported six month delay, will throw the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people and their families into turmoil,” said Mr. Mitchell, who was a top U.S. Department of Education official during the Obama administration. In 2016, after Mr. Trump was elected, more than 600 college and university presidents signed a statement urging that DACA be “upheld, continued, and expanded.”

Read a package of Chronicle articles that provide background, context, and depth on the history of the DACA program and its vulnerable participants.

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