Trump Administration Rescinds Immigrant Protections But Preserves More Significant Ones

The largely symbolic order maintains protections for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at his confirmation hearing.Office of the President-elect

The Department of Homeland Security has canceled an Obama administration program that would have blocked the deportation of undocumented parents of US citizens and legal residents. But the move was largely symbolic, since the program never actually went into effect—and in announcing its termination, DHS solidified the status of more significant protections for immigrants.

The canceled program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), was introduced in 2014 but never took effect due to ongoing legal battles. The DHS memorandum released Thursday stated that the administration would leave in place a similar program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which spares children brought into the country illegally from deportation. “The June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum, however, will remain in effect,” the DHS announcement stated.

Immigrant rights advocates quickly noted that Thursday was the fifth anniversary of DACA, which has protected 787,000 undocumented youths from deportation, according to the Associated Press. 

During the campaign, Trump pledged to rescind both DACA and DAPA. The DAPA cancellation could help reassure Trump’s base that the administration is still committed to aggressively targeting undocumented immigrants. But right-wing activists have attacked the Trump administration for not rescinding DACA. The criticism escalated last week after government data showed that DACA approvals have not slowed significantly under the Trump administration.

DAPA was blocked in 2015 in federal court and never went into effect. Last year, in a deadlocked 4-4 vote, the Supreme Court let the injunction stand.

Had it gone into effect, DAPA would have allowed undocumented parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents to work legally if they had been in the country since 2010 and had no criminal record. 

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s decision reverses a February 20 memorandum in which he allowed DAPA to remain in place—a switch that also highlights DACA’s precarious position. 

“Based on some of the wild, unpredictable things that [this administration has] done,” Jose Magaña-Salgado, managing policy attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told Mother Jones this week, “I would not be shocked if at some point in the future this administration does end DACA.”


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.