DACA invited undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows — now they fear they're more vulnerable to deportation than ever

When President Barack Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, he invited hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants to formally apply to the federal government for temporary protection from deportation.

Over the last five years, roughly 800,000 immigrants, who have lived illegally in the US after they were brought to the country as children, responded to his call, offering up details like their addresses, employers, and schools to the same government they now fear could use the information against them as the Trump administration continues its crackdown on illegal immigration.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced his administration will end DACA, phasing out the program over the next six months to allow Congress time to act. But DACA recipients, known as "Dreamers," fear that beyond losing their work permits and protections against deportation, they could be uniquely vulnerable to federal immigration authorities due to the information the Department of Homeland Security has collected from them.

"That was the first thing that crossed my mind — I was like, 'Oh s---,'" Rosie, a 30-year-old DACA recipient who has lived in the US for 26 years, told Business Insider on Tuesday. Rosie declined to give her last name.

"Even before applying for the program, I knew there was a risk because our sensitive information was being granted to the government," she said. And we were pretty much open about everything. We had a really extended background check."

RELATED: Protesters show support for DACA

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Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
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Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Yessenia Lopez stands with supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Demonstrators carrying signs supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators carrying signs march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Dafne Jacobs, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/30: Activists rallied in Columbus Circle and marched from there to Trump Tower in protest of President Donald Trump's possible elimination of the Obama-era 'Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' (DACA) which curtails deportation of an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TRUMP TOWER - FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/15: On the fifth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the New York Immigration Coalition will join its partners and immigrant New Yorkers to demand an end to discriminatory attacks on undocumented immigrant communities. Immigration advocates rally near Trump Tower on August 15, 2017; to demand Administration uphold programs that protect 1.2 million people from deportation. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Serafina Ha (R) of Chicago embraces Becky Belcore of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium during a demonstration in favor of immigration reform in front of the White House August 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Organized by The Franciscan Action Network, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Church World Service and Sisters of Mercy and NAKASEC, the rally began seven days of prayer and fasting to demand the Trump Administration protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protection Status (TPS). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters gather for a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters walk holding signs during a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 5: Demonstrators hold signs outside of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building during a demonstration in response to the Trump Administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. DACA, an immigration policy passed by former President Barack Obama, allows certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors to receive renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and eligibility fork a work permit. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
A person from the group called "Make the Road" is detained while protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Members of the New York City police detain people protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient Alejandro Villasenor (L), from Mexico speaks speaks with other DACA recipient s during a town hall style meeting hosted by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th Dist) speaks about protecting DACA recipients in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. September 14, 2017. Picture taken September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Immigration activists and DACA recipients take part in a rally about the importance of passing a clean DREAM Act before delivering a million signatures to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 10: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford (D-Las Vegas) (3rd L) joins immigrants and supporters as they march on the Las Vegas Strip during a 'We Rise for the Dream' rally to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump's order to end DACA on September 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. after arriving with their undocumented parents from deportation to a foreign country. Trump's executive order removes protection for about 800,000 current 'dreamers,' about 13,000 of whom live in Nevada. Congress has the option to replace the policy with legislation before DACA expires on March 5, 2018. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 14: Immigration rights activists rally during a protest and press conference before a court hearing challenging the Trump administration's termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, September 14, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. A court hearing was scheduled for this afternoon in a lawsuit brought last year on behalf of Martin Batalla Vidal, who came to the United States from Mexico with his parents when he was 7 years old. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 16: Rodrigo Valencia, 3, of Waltham waves a flag as he is held by his mother Vanessa as they joined hundreds of others attending a rally in support of DACA at the Boston Common on Sep. 16, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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An increasing level of mistrust between immigrant communities and the Trump administration in recent months has only exacerbated concerns that DACA recipients could be easily targeted for deportation, according to Reaz Jafri, an immigration attorney at the firm Withers Bergman.

"DACA invited people who were in the shadows to come forth, get biometrics taken, get put in the system, get a social security number, get a job, take out a loan, open a bank account, get a credit card," Jafri told Business Insider.

"They're wondering, 'Now that I'm no longer protected, can ICE now come and find me? Because ICE now knows where I live, where I work …' It's really nerve-wracking for these people."

Another DACA recipient, 23-year-old Geovanna Serrano, who was brought to the US from Ecuador 17 years ago, said that while she believes there are too many Dreamers for immigration authorities to target individually, it's difficult to trust the Trump administration after his wavering on the DACA program.

Trump in recent months vowed he would deal with the program "with heart" and said Dreamers could "rest easy."

"Originally he said he has a good place in his heart for us … He said, 'You guys don't have to worry,' but we're here worrying now, because he clearly didn't stick to his word," Serrano told Business Insider.

"It's definitely something concerning — the fact that they have all this information. [Immigration authorities] won't come to people's homes, because I know that would cause a lot of chaos, but it's definitely something that concerns me."

Demonstrators block roads near the White House to protest President Donald Trump's plan to repeal DACA in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. BernsteinThomson Reuters

'Dire consequences'

Dreamers' fears are not unfounded — the same fear surfaced several years ago after the Obama administration in 2014 attempted to expand DACA and implement a program to shield from deportation the undocumented parents of American children, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents.

As HuffPost reported on Tuesday, the judge who ruled against DAPA in 2015 had included among his reasoning the possibility that any DAPA applicants who offered up their personal information to the federal government in exchange for protection from deportation could be at a heightened risk under a different presidential administration.

"There may be dire consequences for them if DAPA is later found to be unconstitutional," US District Judge Andrew Hanen, a George W. Bush appointee, said in his ruling. "The DHS — whether under this administration or the next — will then have all pertinent identifying information for these immigrants and could deport them."

Trump himself appeared to acknowledge those concerns in an official statement released on Tuesday that declared DACA recipients would not be prioritized for deportation "unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang."

"Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged. We are focused on Criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators," Trump said in the statement.

But the Department of Homeland Security is slightly more hazy on the issue, according to a recently updated "frequently asked questions" page on the department's website, which says the department will not "proactively" supply law enforcement agencies with the personal information of DACA recipients or applicants — but there are caveats.

"Generally, information provided in DACA requests will not be proactively provided to other law enforcement entities (including ICE and CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings unless the requestor poses a risk to national security or public safety, or meets the criteria for the issuance of a Notice to Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria," the website says.

However, the department's policy "may be modified, superseded, or rescinded at any time without notice."

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SEE ALSO: 'Dreamers' could begin losing permits as early as March 6 — here's what Trump's phase-out of DACA looks like

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