White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters on Tuesday that President Trump is not expected to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted legal status to roughly 690,000 young immigrants, beyond its March 5 deadline.
The news puts additional pressure on Congress to find an immigration compromise to protect the Dreamers before the deadline. Some lawmakers had voiced the hope they would have more time to resolve the issue when last month a federal court ordered the administration to continue to allow Dreamers to renew their status as legal challenges worked their way through the courts.
Kelly told reporters he “doubt[ed] very much” that Trump would extend the program because he believes the president might not have the authority to do so, according to the Washington Post. Republicans have long argued the DACA program was unconstitutional, and the Trump administration has used this line of thinking to push the decision off on Congress. “What makes them act is pressure,” Kelly told reporters, warning Congress not to temporarily extend the deadline.
Congress is in the throes of a debate over immigration that has focused heavily on the popular DACA program. Lawmakers of both parties have said they wanted to grant permanent legal protection to the Dreamers
Trump’s proposed immigration plan would extend legal status to 1.8 million Dreamers, a number significantly higher than that of those currently under DACA’s protection. It would include those who qualified for the program but did not enroll. The plan also, however, demands in exchange $25 billion for a border wall, an end to the diversity visa lottery, and, possibly most controversially, a narrowing of the categories of family members legal immigrants can bring with them to just spouses and children younger than 18. And, CNN reports, it would alter immigration enforcement tactics to allow the administration to deport more undocumented immigrants from countries not bordering the U.S. The White House rejected a plan from Sens. John McCain and Christopher Coons that would grant permanent legal status to Dreamers who have been in the country since 2013. The plan supports increased security along the border but would not authorize the $25 billion for the wall, nor does it mention the diversity visa lottery or the family-based migration. McCain and Coons have defended their bill and are pushing for a deal in spite of Trump’s criticism.