Protests have ramped up over the past few days in response to Donald Trump’s decision to scrap his predecessor’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) immigration scheme.
Passed as an executive order in 2012, the programme aims to protect from deportation immigrants who were brought to the US before the age of 16.
The policy was a response to an increasing number of undocumented immigrants among the US student population, and has allowed around 800,000 young people, often known as “dreamers”, to obtain their stay and work permits for a renewable two-year period.
Some 1.1 million people are eligible for the programme, according to the Pew Research centre, but Trump’s call threatens their future.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why is it being abolished?
In a press briefing on Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who strongly opposes the policy, said it was an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch”.
Although Trump has previously said the dreamers are “terrific” and reportedly struggled with the decision, close advisers, including former chief strategist Steve Bannon, have pushed him to scrap the programme.
Trump said the move would be a “gradual process, not a sudden phase-out”.
He added: “I am not going to cut Daca off but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”
Earlier on Tuesday, President Trump echoed his “America First” rhetoric and tweeted: “I look forward to working w/ D’s + R’s in Congress to address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country 1st.”
Will it be replaced?
Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
The Trump administration has given Congress six months to produce a replacement.
A cross-party effort has swung into action since Tuesday’s announcement. Democrat Dick Durbin joined forces with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham to push for the the DREAM Act to protect undocumented immigrants who are currently under Daca.
Graham has urged trump to “find a consensus”.
Where does that leave dreamers?
New applications for Daca will be stopped, but applications “in the pipeline” will still be processed.
In a statement, Trump said existing work permits will be “honoured until their date of expiration up to two full years from (September 5).
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
He said that although he doesn’t want to punish children for the actions of their parents, young Americans “have dreams too”.
The decision has prompted the Mexican government to respond.
In a statement, the country’s Foreign Relations department said: “It is undoubtedly the sole responsibility of US citizens and institutions to determine US immigration policy… but in the current situation, the Mexican government has a moral imperative to act.”
What has been the political reaction to the decision?
Immigration is a contentious topic within the Republican party, with one Democrat Representative suggesting this legislative move could lead to a “civil war” within the GOP.
Republican Florida representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, tweeted:
Senator John McCain called the decision the “wrong approach”, adding: “I strongly believe that children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know”.
Across the political divide, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s decision should “break the hearts and offend the morals of all who believe in justice and human dignity”. She urged Congress to pass safeguarding legislation.
Senate Minority leader Chuck Shumer, a Democrat, said the “heartless” Daca decision is “ripping apart families”.