White House talking points on Tuesday urged DACA recipients to prepare for a "departure from the United States," a much starker possible future than Trump administration officials used in public when announcing an end to the program.
The statement was contained in a background document that was sent by the White House to offices on Capitol Hill, obtained by CNN from multiple sources.
In the "DACA talking points" memo, the White House laid out a number of bullet points for supporters on Tuesday's announcement outlining the administration's action. One bullet point suggests DACA participants should prepare to leave the country.
"The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States -- including proactively seeking travel documentation -- or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible," the memo says.
Neither the White House or Department of Homeland Security disputed the contents of the document to CNN.
"As noted, we expect Congress to pass legislation so this will hopefully be a moot point," DHS spokesman David Lapan said. "However, of course we would encourage persons who are in the country illegally to depart voluntarily, or seek another form of immigration benefit for which they might qualify."
"No one has an entitlement to live in the United States illegally," Lapan added. "Individuals have an independent obligation to comply with the laws that Congress passes, in all contexts."
The White House referred all questions to DHS.
The Trump administration Tuesday announced it was ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation and offered them the ability to work and study in the US. DHS will process applications that had been received before Tuesday and will allow renewals in the next month of any of the two-year permits set to expire before March 5, 2018, to give time for Congress to act.
Trump said Tuesday he has "a great heart" for DACA recipients and the White House is pushing Congress to act.
"I have a love for these people and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly," Trump said Tuesday afternoon at the White House. "And I can tell you, speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right."
The talking points language echoes similar guidance DHS has used in the past regarding a different program, Temporary Protected Status, when it granted a six-month extension to Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake who are using it to work and study in the United States. DHS has signaled it may end the protections after those six months expire.
But the comments are sure to alarm already fearful advocates, who worry that if Congress fails to save the DACA program, the expiration of permits could mean deportation for the nearly 700,000 people currently enrolled in DACA that in many cases have known no other home besides the US.
In public statements Tuesday after announcing an end to the program, DHS had acknowledged that any person who loses their DACA permit would revert to being like any undocumented immigrant in the US, though it emphasized that it did not place a priority on targeting those individuals. But they did not offer any assurances those individuals would avoid deportation if encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and confirmed that ICE would be able to access the detailed information DHS has on those individuals if it found a law enforcement purpose to do so.