The Department of Homeland Security announced it will renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young illegal immigrants to stay and work in the country.
To date, more than 560,000 illegal immigrants have been shielded from deportation via the DACA program. The Obama administration’s announcement Thursday means those half-million illegal immigrants will be allowed to renew their deferral for two additional years.
In a statement announcing the policy, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said:
Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers.
“By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead,” he added.
According to DHS, the renewal process will begin immediately; the first DACA immigrants’ approvals will expire in September, and they must file requests for renewal prior to its expiration.
Critics have blasted the program as part of the Obama administration’s non-enforcement of immigration law and pointed to it as part of the reason for the flood of young unaccompanied illegal immigrants streaming across the border in recent months.
“The 2012 election-year decision to waive our laws as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has encouraged and exacerbated the tragic cases of migrant children,” Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston said of the administration’s response this week to the crisis. He added that “the administration should work to fix the underlying problems their lawlessness has created, not paper over the symptoms,” calling the program a “mini-amnesty.”
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) stated this week that the flood of children across the border is due to Obama’s policies and rhetoric about childhood arrivals.
“This is a direct result of the President’s statements that he was not going to enforce the law with regard to people who entered the country as youngsters. It’s an open invitation for others to come,” Sessions said.