Immigration groups are increasingly doubtful President Trump will end President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program after the Department of Homeland Security announced last week that recipients of the Obama-era program were safe for the unforeseen future.
Four national organizations representing a variety of immigration stances told the Washington Examiner the White House has been silent on the issue, and has not told even the groups that support Trump how it plans to go forward. That silence, according to two groups who supported Trump's immigration positions as a candidate, indicates the idea of DACA reform is not stalled, but dead.
"If the president had decided to end DACA, it would have happened. I don't know what they are waiting for. He promised to end DACA," said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA. "Once you say something is illegal and unconstitutional, you can't just keep doing it."
New data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' second fiscal quarter shows 107,524 DACA renewals and 17,275 new applications were approved from January to March, approximately 70 percent of which happened under the Trump administration.
While campaigning last year, Trump promised to "immediately terminate" the 2012 policy that permitted illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors to receive a two-year period of deferred action and work permit. Recipients' approval would last two years and could be renewed if the individual remained in good legal standing.
As a candidate, Trump blasted the "amnesty" program that former President Barack Obama's second term Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson imposed by memo because Congress could not pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Shortly after his inauguration, Trump appeared to be wavering in his commitment to rescinding DACA. He told one news outlet that recipients "shouldn't be worried" because "we're going to take care of everybody."
Then in April, Trump reiterated that compassionate view when he said "we need special heart" to "understand the other side of that equation" as it relates to DACA recipients.
But last Thursday, DHS Secretary John Kelly said DACA would remain in place while its 2014 sister program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, would end before it had even begun. The Trump administration revoked the parental program, though it was never implemented, because there was "no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy" due to its current entanglement in the courts.
Last week, a White House official told the New York Times "there has been no final determination made about the DACA program, which the president has stressed needs to be handled with compassion and with heart."
When asked about a timeline for Trump's deciding the fate of DACA, the White House referred the Washington Examiner to a two-month-old interview it conducted with Trump in which he said "we need special heart."
Trump has some choices he could make related to the program. He could direct DHS to immediately stop issuing renewals and new permits, or announce the program will be discontinued at a future date, giving people time to come up with a plan for how to respond.
But Kelly has said the issue should be taken up by Capitol Hill lawmakers because "Congress is the only entity that can provide a long-term solution to this issue."
Other groups agree with Kelly.
"Though I was initially skeptical, it might even make sense to try to trade a real, lawful amnesty for the DACAs in exchange for important immigration changes only Congress can pass – specifically, universal E-Verify and cuts in legal immigration. In that case, announcing that renewals would continue until, say, the end of the year could be a powerful motivator for congressional Democrats," writes Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports conservative-aligned immigration reforms.