At an immigration meeting with members of Congress, President Donald Trump mistakenly said that foreign-born residents in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “could be 40 years old, 41 years old.” In fact, they can be no more than 36 years old, because the program is only open to those born after June 15, 1981. On average, they are 25 years old.
The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 to allow some people illegally brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation proceedings and obtain work authorization for two years, subject to renewal. On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it would accept no new applications for the program and it would phase out the program for current recipients.
The White House and Congress are seeking an agreement on a bill that would keep the program intact before the March 5 deadline set by the president. The administration has said it won’t renew any current DACA designations that expire after that date. As part of the negotiations, the president met with some members of Congress at the White House on Jan. 9. Trump talked about the ages of the DACA recipients when discussing the possibility of a “clean DACA bill,” which is a bill that would address only the issue of what to do about DACA and not other immigration issues.
Although 800,000 have been approved for DACA since 2012, there are currently about 690,000 people enrolled.
Trump, Jan. 9: No, I think a clean DACA bill, to me, is a DACA bill where we take care of the 800,000 people. They are actually not necessarily young people; everyone talks about young — you know, they could be 40 years old, 41 years old, but they’re also 16 years old.
Trump also brought up the ages of DACA recipients earlier in the meeting when Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke in favor of a path to citizenship for DACA recipients who “didn’t break the law because their parents, who broke the law, brought them here.” Trump seemed open to providing DACA recipients a path to citizenship, but again noted that the DACA recipients are “not really kids.”
Trump: That whole path is an incentive for people — and they’re not all kids. I mean, we’re used to talking about kids. They’re not really kids. You have them 39, 40 years old, in some cases. But it would be an incentive for people to work hard and do a good job. So that could very well be brought up.
In both cases, Trump overstated the ages of current DACA recipients.
The program, as instituted by the Obama administration, was open only to those who have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007, and were both under the age of 16 when they came to the country and “under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.” That would mean that applicants had to be born after June 15, 1981 — a fact that was highlighted recently with the deportation of Jorge Garcia, a 39-year-old landscaper from Lincoln Park, Michigan.
Garcia was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child and has lived in the United States for 30 years, but he is not eligible for the DACA program because he was too old to qualify for it, as USA Today writes. He was deported on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
USA Today, Jan. 15: Jorge Garcia is too old to qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 and were born after June 15, 1981, to legally work and study here.
Garcia said he had asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials if they could wait until new DACA legislation is passed, which might expand the age range for immigrants to qualify. But officials refused and said he had to leave by Jan. 15.
There are at least five bills in Congress that would provide legal status to those illegally brought to the U.S. as children, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Four of them have no birth date requirement, so age would not be an impediment for someone like Garcia, said Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. One of them — the SUCCEED ACT, which was introduced by Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina — maintains the current age limit, Gelatt said.
Trump’s remarks about DACA recipients being “40 years old” fit a theme of his administration, which has emphasized the current age of DACA recipients rather than the age at which they arrived in the United States.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s plan to phase out the program, he described DACA recipients as “800,000 mostly-adult illegal aliens.” But, as we wrote at the time, Tom K. Wong, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, oversaw a national survey of 3,063 DACA holders last year and found that on average they were 6-and-a-half years old when they arrived in the U.S. Most of them — 54 percent– were under the age of 7 (see page 13).
That survey also showed that the average age of DACA recipients last year was 25 years old, and the vast majority — 82.5 percent — were under the age of 30 (see page 12). None was 39, 40 or 41 years old, because that would be too old to be eligible for the program.