Immigration attorneys’ fears grow over uncertain DACA future

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly said his administration will take a tough stance on illegal immigration. His potential policies include a wall along the border with Mexico, tripling the number of ICE agents, and a two-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who enter the United States illegally, but one position in particular has some immigration attorneys scrambling to find the best way forward.

Trump has said he will terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive action signed into law by President Obama in 2012 that gives some undocumented immigrants an exemption from deportation and a renewable two-year work permit.

The uncertainty over DACA’s future is leading Elizabeta Markuci and other lawyers to advise their clients not to submit new applications.

“I want to see if the current administration is going to cancel the program,” Markuci said.

“Until I know, I can’t in good faith tell my clients to apply. It’s too risky.”

Markuci directs the immigration project at Volunteers of Legal Service, an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers. Many of her clients come for help with their DACA applications, and Markuci works to pair them with appropriate legal representation.

She said she received numerous calls and text messages the night of the election from clients who were scared about the future. CNN has reported on the fears of several DACA recipients after the election.

More than 740,000 people have been approved to receive DACA status, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics. Markuci fears the program will be shut down, but also that the Trump administration might use the DACA database to identify undocumented immigrants.

“By helping new applicants with DACA, we might be exposing them. I have a responsibility to advise clients in a way that is appropriate.”

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