ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
We're going to check in now on DACA, the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program that protects young immigrants from deportation. To recap, President Obama started this program through an executive action. President Trump canceled it. Judges hit pause on President Trump's action, and Congress failed to pass a bill that would make DACA permanent.
That brings us to today. Some moderate Republicans in the House are now trying to force a vote with Democrats' support. We wanted to know what this uncertainty means for DACA recipients. So we've invited David Leopold back on the program. He's past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and joins us from Cleveland. Hi there.
DAVID LEOPOLD: Hi.
SHAPIRO: So let's talk about what this uncertainty means for the people who are covered under DACA. President Trump's deadline to end the program was March 5. Courts put that on hold. So more than two months after the deadline now, has anything changed?
LEOPOLD: Well, what's changed is you have increasing anxiety among DREAMers, understandably. Every day that goes by without a permanent fix for DACA is another day in which the anxiety levels are increased for undocumented youth.
SHAPIRO: Apart from generalized anxiety, what's the most common specific question that you get from DACA recipients?
LEOPOLD: That's easy. Should I renew? Should I file an application to renew my DACA?
SHAPIRO: And what do you tell them?
LEOPOLD: The first thing I will tell DACA recipients is do not do anything without talking to an attorney. If it's a renewal situation, I have been mostly emphasizing that they apply for their renewal, especially if somebody's information has already been given to the government.
SHAPIRO: What if somebody is eligible for DACA but has not applied before and wants to apply now? What do you tell those people?
LEOPOLD: Well, first of all, there's no way to do that right now. Judge Bates out of the District of Columbia, District Court judge, found that DREAMers who were not yet registered for DACA could actually apply for DACA. That was the most expansive of all the DACA rulings. But he stayed his own order for 90 days to give the government an opportunity to justify legally why it attempted to withdraw DACA.
That said, assuming that that ruling stays in place, I think people who do not have DACA yet and are thinking of applying really do need to think the situation through very carefully because the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement do not have their information in their files yet. Putting yourself forward with new information about yourself can be potentially very dangerous.
SHAPIRO: You're saying it might be better for some people to stay in the shadows.
LEOPOLD: Well, as a - as an attorney, (laughter) I can't advise anybody to stay in the shadows. I can only advise them what the law is. They have to evaluate the risk of applying for DACA versus the risk of staying in the shadows.
SHAPIRO: Could you tell us about some of the general advice that you're giving clients? I'm thinking there have been reports of immigration activists being targeted for deportation as a form of retaliation. This is something that ICE denies. But are you advising people to keep their heads down more generally?
LEOPOLD: No, I'm not. I think that people in this country - the Constitution applies to everybody in this country, whether they're documented or whether they're not documented.
SHAPIRO: How do you see this uncertainty ending? Do you think it comes down to a Supreme Court ruling or congressional action, or does it just keep spinning forward with these short-term extensions, like we've been seeing?
LEOPOLD: I think ultimately the answer is going to have to be legislative. It's Congress that's going to have to make permanent the protections for DREAMers, for people who came to the country as youngsters.
SHAPIRO: And the president, who's going to have to sign that.
LEOPOLD: Which is a problem.
SHAPIRO: So this action by moderate Republicans in the House to try to force a vote with Democrats, you're not holding your breath that this will be any kind of a real solution.
LEOPOLD: Well, I'm applauding the effort, of course. But I'm not holding my breath for this.
SHAPIRO: David Leopold, immigration attorney in Cleveland. Thanks for joining us once again.
LEOPOLD: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.