A talking points memo issued by the White House on Tuesday said the Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work permits “to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.”
The memo, first obtained by CNN, comes after the Trump administration on Tuesday announced it would end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
The memo suggests “proactively seeking travel documentation – or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.”
Yet the same Trump administration memo noted that immigrants who lose their DACA protection “will not proactively be referred to ICE and placed in removal proceedings unless they satisfy one of the Department’s enforcement priorities.”
Generally, the DHS describes its “enforcement priorities” as undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes or pose a threat to national security.
A statement from Trump on Tuesday also addressed the concerns that rescinding DACA would leave its recipients vulnerable to deportation, declaring that “DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
But Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said Tuesday that individuals still have an “independent obligation” to follow US law.
“As noted, we expect Congress to pass legislation so this will hopefully be a moot point,” Lapan told CNN. “However, of course we would encourage persons who are in the country illegally to depart voluntarily, or seek another form of immigration benefit for which they might qualify.”
The DACA program will be phased out over six months, which gives Congress opportunity to enact a replacement program. If no such program is created, some DACA recipients will see their work authorizations expire as early as March 6, 2018. Others, whose permits are set to expire in the near future, may still renew their authorization by October 5, 2017 and receive another two years of protection.
President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday evening that if Congress is unable to “legalize DACA,” he would “revisit this issue.”