President Donald Trump is leaning toward ending a U.S. immigration policy the Obama administration started for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, according to multiple sources.
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The president's decision on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, could be announced as early as next week, one source said.
Trump has to make a decision before Sept. 5 when the 10-plus state attorneys general, led by Texas A.G. Ken Paxton, said they'd sue the Trump administration to end it and force the administration’s hand. Trump has to decide whether to defend the program or not, thereby ending it.
Though an announcement is likely next week, a senior administration official urged caution, noting that the president's thinking could always change.
Trump had told ABC News in January that people protected here under DACA, also called DREAMers, "shouldn't be very worried."
"They are here illegally. They shouldn't be very worried,” President Trump said in an Jan. 25 interview with ABC News' David Muir. “I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody. We're going to have a very strong border. We're going to have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried."
The most recent DACA numbers from March 31 show 787,580 initial grants of DACA and 799,077 renewals since the inception of the program in 2012. Those who qualified for DACA had to prove they came to the United States before age 16, were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, lived here for at least five years continuously, attend or graduated from high school or college and have no criminal convictions.
The president could end DACA with an executive order, canceling the program the same day as he announces it. The big question is, however, what happens to those DREAMers already processed? The biggest value of DACA, apart from eliminating the fear of deportation, is the work permit, and it's unclear how the Trump administration will handle work authorizations issued under DACA.
If Trump chooses to end DACA, there's no large-scale mechanism for turning DACA beneficiaries over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation. The policy now allows U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to share information with ICE if it receives an application for someone who has committed a felony crime, or has a warrant out for arrest.
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., introduced a companion bill in the House, which goes a step further by allowing DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.
ABC News' Geneva Sands contributed to this report.