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DACA Remains In Jeopardy, But Thousands Of People Are Still Enrolling

Despite a Trump administration announcement in 2017 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had come to an end, new data shows that more than 134,000 people newly joined the program or had their status in it renewed this year. That’s about 60 percent of the number of new or renewed applications that were approved during that same time period last year.

Since 2012, DACA has provided a work permit and protection from deportation for certain people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. But in September of 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would end the program. By January, an injunction had required that the administration keep renewing the status of those already in the program. In April, a federal judge told the government it had to continue accepting new applications (that ruling is scheduled to go into effect on July 23).

From January through the end of June, more than 16,600 new people were accepted into the program based on applications submitted before Trump ended the program, according to data released last week to a federal court by the Department of Homeland Security. Another 117,400 renewed their status for another two years.

More than 820,000 people have been granted DACA status since the program began in 2012, and approximately 700,000 are currently participating. That’s about half of the number it could be, according to estimates of who’s eligible.

The vast majority of those who are currently in the program, 80 percent of all recipients, are from Mexico. The next-largest group comes from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, totaling just 9 percent. More than a quarter are residents of California, and another 16 percent live in Texas.

Despite the political and legal debate over the DACA program, the public broadly supports protections for this group. Polls consistently show that a majority of people in the U.S. support continuing the program and believe there should be a pathway to citizenship for people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Trump himself has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for some people, even as he cancelled the program and instructed Congress to replace it by a deadline that has since come and gone.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit in California makes clear that DACA recipients who come into contact with law enforcement have been at risk of losing their status. The case references multiple instances where recipients were notified that they’d been removed from the program after routine police encounters like traffic stops, even though they hadn’t been convicted of a crime. In February, a judge issued a temporary injunction, saying that DACA recipients have a right to an explanation and a chance to respond before their protections are cancelled.

In Texas, yet another court case, which is likely to be decided in the coming weeks, could once again allow the government to cancel the program. Lawyers with the Department of Justice have said the program violates federal immigration law. The issue is widely expected to be brought to the Supreme Court, which declined to rule on the issue earlier this year while the various cases worked their way through lower courts. Even as the program continues to accept new applicants, its future hangs in the balance.

CLARIFICATION (July 17, 2018, 4:50 p.m.): We’ve updated this article to make clear that the DACA program is not scheduled to begin accepting new applications until July 23, and that the 16,600 new people who were accepted into the program had applied before Trump ended the program.

Anna Maria Barry-Jester is a senior reporter at Kaiser Health News and California Healthline, and formerly a reporter for FiveThirtyEight.