DACA: 10 questions on program that protects 'Dreamers'

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Story highlights

  • DACA was one of President Barack Obama's signature executive orders
  • The program defers deportations of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants

(CNN)Could former President Barack Obama's signature immigration measure be headed for the chopping block?

It's a key question that's been looming since President Donald Trump took office. But so far, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- which Obama created with an executive order in 2012 -- remains in place.
    Debate over the issue surged again this week after the arrest of a 23-year-old man in Washington state who was a participant in the program.
    In a news conference Thursday, Trump described DACA as "one of the most difficult subjects" he's facing. The measure prohibits the deportation of those meeting certain requirements.
    Here's a look at some key questions to consider as Trump and other officials weigh what to do next.

    Who's participating in the program?

    These are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as Dreamers. To be eligible, an applicant must have arrived in the US before age 16 and lived there since June 15, 2007. They cannot have been older than 30 when Obama signed the 2012 executive order.
    More than 750,000 people are part of the program. As of the end of September, there were more than 46,000 people with applications pending. There are 752,154 people who have been approved over the life of the program.

    What does DACA do for them?

    If their applications are approved by U.S. immigration officials, DACA recipients can come out of the shadows and obtain valid driver's licenses, enroll in college and legally secure jobs.

    Where does the program stand now?

    It's unclear. Trump vowed to dismantle it on the campaign trail but has since signaled he might take a softer stance.
    "DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids," Trump said on Thursday. "We're gonna deal with DACA with heart."
    As of this week, officials said they were still accepting applications for the program.

    If Trump repeals it, is there any hope for Dreamers?

    Some lawmakers have proposed a bipartisan measure that could protect Dreamers from deportation if Trump ends the program.

    Why are people called Dreamers?

    The term Dreamers comes from the proposed DREAM Act, which offered legal status in return for attending college or joining the military. It was first introduced in 2001 and the latest version was voted down in the Senate in December 2010.

    Can you still be deported if you have been approved?

    Yes. Immigration officials say this happens when a DACA recipient is found to be a threat to either public or national safety. About 1,500 people have had their deferral canceled due to a crime or gang-related activity or admission, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    How long does the deferral last?

    Two years. After that people can apply for renewal. About 146,000 people did so in fiscal year 2016.

    Can Dreamers travel to other countries?

    Yes, but they must fill out a form, pay $575 and be granted permission. Vacation travel is not permitted, but participants can leave for funerals, job assignments, school-related travel and other reasons.

    What information and fees are required?

    Applicants must provide evidence they were living in the United States at the prescribed times, proof of education and confirmation they are who they say they are. They must pass background, fingerprint and other checks that look at identifying biological features.
    The fee for biometric tests is $85 and filling the form for employment authorization is $410.

    Where do I find out more about DACA?

    There are answers to more complex questions on the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.