Anyone who knows anything about the government shutdown showdown — temporarily postponed until February 8 after Senate Democrats cut a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — knows it has something to do with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) being set to end on March 5. Countless press reports and congressional statements have suggested that DACA is alive and well but faces an imminent and specific execution date.
Yet this is completely incorrect. DACA is the Schrödinger’s Cat of government programs, at once dead and alive. It died months before March 5, and it will probably live for months afterwards — even if Congress does nothing to save it.
How did we get here? On September 5, President Trump announced that he would be ending DACA, relying upon advice from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the program is “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.” Rather than pull the plug immediately, the president promised an “orderly transition and wind-down” to minimize disruption and give lawmakers a chance to strike a deal that would provide relief to DACA recipients. “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA,” he tweeted. “If they can’t, I will revisit the issue!” His official statement promised that DACA permits “will not begin to expire for another six months” — i.e., not before March 5.
This was false from the start. As the Department of Homeland Security announced the very same day, any DACA recipient whose two-year permit was set to expire by March 5 would have only 30 days to apply for a renewal. On October 5, the doors closed. Any DACA beneficiary who didn’t apply for a renewal by then, and whose permit has since expired, has lost DACA protections.