The US government has said it will reject new applications and shorten renewal periods for a programme that shields young people from deportation.
The move, detailed in a memo from acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, ended a month of uncertainty about how the government would respond after the US Supreme Court refused to let it be scrapped completely.
Mr Wolf said the government may try to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme again, casting it as a law enforcement issue that could contribute to illegal immigration. He said the federal government needs more time to consider next steps, presenting the measures as a temporary change.
Wolf wrote in the memo: “DACA makes clear that, for certain large classes of individuals, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will at least tolerate, if not affirmatively sanction, their ongoing violation of the immigration laws.”
About 650,000 people are part of DACA, which allows young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children to work and shields them from deportation. Roughly 66,000 people meet age requirements to apply, according to the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.
The government will deny all new applications, limit renewals to one year instead of two, and deny requests by DACA recipients to visit their home countries unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.
Recipients may seek permission to return home for family events, such as funerals or weddings, and other reasons, though US President Donald Trump’s administration has generally denied them.
The Supreme Court ruled last month that Mr Trump failed to follow rule-making procedures when he tried to end the programme, but the justices kept a window open for him to try again.
The White House has been devising plans to make another push to end DACA, though it was not immediately clear whether he would make the politically sensitive move before November’s election. Democratic rival Joe Biden wants to keep DACA unconditionally.