The Trump administration announced last year its plan to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) – which provides a level of amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants, many of whom came to the U.S. as children – with a six-month delay for recipients. But a federal appeals court ruled against the proposal in early November, declaring the government couldn't immediately end the program.
“The Executive wields awesome power in the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” the ruling said. “Our decision today does not curb that power, but rather enables its exercise in a manner that is free from legal misconceptions and is democratically accountable to the public.”
Trump had initially set a March 5 deadline for the program and called on Congress to pass legislation pertaining to the young immigrants. But the deadline came and went, with no congressional action but several lawsuits challenging the administration's decision to end the program.
Federal judges in New York and Washington also have ruled against President Trump on DACA.
President Trump has repeatedly blamed Democrats for inaction.
Here’s a look at the DACA program and why the Trump administration wants to dismantle it.
The DACA program was formed through executive action by former President Barack Obama in 2012 and allowed certain people who came to the U.S. illegally as minors to be protected from immediate deportation. Recipients, called Dreamers, were able to request “consideration of deferred action” for a period of two years, which was subject to renewal.
“Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stated. “Deferred action does not provide lawful status.”
Individuals were able to request DACA status if they were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, came to the U.S. before turning 16 and continuously lived in the country since June 15, 2007.
Individuals also had to have a high school diploma, GED certification, been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school. Recipients could not have a criminal record.
It did not provide “legal status.”
Nearly 800,000 youth, called Dreamers, are under the program's umbrella.
Daniel Garza, president of the conservative immigration nonprofit Libre Initiative, told Fox News that DACA offers a “reprieve from a life of uncertainty for innocent kids who didn’t break the law.”
“It’s rather disappointing to think they could return to a state of anxiety and fear,” he said.
The Trump administration announced in September 2017 that it planned to phase out DACA for current recipients, and no new requests would be granted. But a lower court order required the administration to continue accepting renewal applications for those under the DACA program, and the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's request to intervene.
Since the announcement, Trump had offered to work with lawmakers on a solution for the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who fell under DACA’s umbrella of protections. But at the same time, he has repeatedly blamed Democrats on social media for lack of a solution.
Earlier this year, Trump released his “four pillars” of immigration reform, which included a provision for legal status for DACA recipients and others who would be eligible for DACA status. The White House estimated that total to be 1.8 million people. The Senate rejected the plan.
Republicans – and some Democrats – opposed Obama’s directive establishing DACA from the start as a perceived overreach of executive power.
Obama spoke out on social media after the Trump administration announced a plan to dismantle the program, stating that it's "self-defeating … and it is cruel" to end DACA and questioned the motive behind the decision.
Despite some rumors circulating online to the contrary, Dreamers were eligible to serve in the U.S. military since 2014 when the Pentagon adopted a policy to allow a certain amount of illegal immigrants to join.
In fiscal year 2016, 359 DACA recipients had enlisted in the Army – which is the only branch to accept immigrants of this category.
Fox News' John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.