• Matthew Fuzi

Trump Announces Possible "Road to Citizenship” for DACA Recipients

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he intends to sign an important executive order on immigration policy by the end of July.

In an interview with José Díaz-Balart of Noticias Telemundo, Trump mentioned that the order would include a provision entailing a “road to citizenship" for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

When asked by Díaz-Balart about the scope of the planned executive order, Trump responded that the bill would be "large and comprehensive” in scope.

"No, what I'm going to do is that they're going to be part of a much bigger bill on immigration. It's going to be a very big bill, a very good bill, and merit-based bill and it will include DACA, and I think people are going to be very happy, but one of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We're going to have a road to citizenship."

However, deputy press secretary Judd Deere clarified that the executive order would not include immediate amnesty, and would additionally emphasize "strong border security and permanent merit-based reforms.”

Moreover, Deere noted that President Trump encourages Congress to begin working on a "negotiated legislative solution” for DACA, as a proposed road to citizenship would likely require the granting of permanent legal residency to all eligible DACA beneficiaries, something that the presidency might be unable to achieve unilaterally.

This revelation marks an about-face for the Trump administration, who had previously sought to eliminate DACA, an Obama-era immigration program that enables certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to receive renewable two-year deferments from deportation, as well as eligibility to receive a work permit.

The Oval Office came under fire in 2017, after initially announcing plans to phase out DACA without a viable replacement policy. During the public outcry that followed, three district courts filed injunctions to prevent the rescinding of DACA protections on the grounds that the attempted repeal was "arbitrary and capricious”; meaning, made without legal merit and/or due consideration of the circumstances.

After three years of litigation, on June 18th 2020, the Supreme Court, ruled in a 5-to-4 decision on the prevailing case of the controversy, Trump v. NAACP (No. 18-588), that the procedure in which the Trump administration attempted to revoke DACA was unconstitutional, effectively blocking DACA's repeal.

The initial reaction from President Trump was adversarial, denouncing the decision on Twitter as a “shotgun [blast] into the face of people who call themselves Republicans or Conservatives”, likely referring to Republican Chief Justice John Roberts’s support for the final decision.

However, less than a month later, it appears that the Trump administration is now taking the SCOTUS defeat in stride with a remarkable reversal, not only affirming a commitment to upholding DACA protections, but also proposing to expand the program with a potential pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.

Nevertheless, this departure has not been met with universal praise by all of Trump’s political allies.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) decried Trump’s DACA proposal on Twitter as unconstitutional, despite reassurances from the White House that the proposed executive order would not include amnesty.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for the American Dream, an alliance of U.S. business and commercial leaders, is calling on President Trump to leave DACA alone for the time being if his true intentions for this executive order will involve another attempt to repeal DACA in favor of another immigration policy, citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn as inopportune circumstances for DACA recipients, their families, and their employers.

Until the prospective executive order is signed later this month, there remains much speculation as to the true nature of this bill and its impacts on DACA.

Matthew Fuzi is the Associate Editor for The National Times.