Demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the DACA case in November. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Trump administration’s move to reject new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was criticized as “cruel and unnecessary” Tuesday by Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

The nonprofit social services agency, which has assisted more than 1,000 applications and renewals since 2012, said the policy change creates “significant trauma and anxiety” for an estimated 40,000 “Dreamers” in San Diego County.

“The federal administration relentlessly continues its work to disrupt DACA, a program widely supported by 85% of Americans,” said Michael Hopkins, CEO of the local agency, adding that the government was violating a recent court order to reinstate the program.

“Dreamers build a stronger, healthier, more resilient San Diego. We implore Congress to take action to offer stronger protections for these hardworking individuals who should never have to fear being turned away from the country they call home,” Hopkins said.

A senior official told Reuters Tuesday that the Trump administration is reviewing last month’s  Supreme Court ruling that found the administration had erred in the way it decided to end the DACA, in which some 644,000 immigrants are enrolled.

The administration plans to continue its existing policy of not accepting new DACA applicants, a policy in place since 2017, the official told Reuters. It will extend the eligibility by a year for those DACA immigrants whose protection from deportation was due to expire, as long as they do not have a criminal record, the official said.

The previous policy had been to extend the eligibility for two years.

In addition, a memorandum issued by the Department of Homeland Security said permits allowing DACA recipients to travel outside the country would only be issued in “exceptional circumstances.”

“These actions will limit the scope of the program while DHS and the administration review its legality, justifications for a possible wind-down and other considerations relevant to deciding whether to keep or wind down the DACA policy,” the official said.

In justifying his concerns about the policy, acting secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said the program was sending “mixed messages” on immigration enforcement.

“DACA makes clear that, for certain large classes of individuals, DHS will at least tolerate, if not affirmatively sanction, their ongoing violation of the immigration laws,” the memo said.

Trump has made his hardline stance on both legal and illegal immigration a central platform of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign, but DACA is a complicated issue for him because of increasing public support of the program.

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