WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration announced the end of a program that allows young undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that they would rescind President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order that allowed for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain, with a “wind down” process of six months for Congress to act. Almost 800,000 people are protected from deportation under the program, but Sessions faulted Obama’s order, and called it an “open ended circumvention of immigration laws.”
But he also talked about the program in the context of the Trump administration’s efforts to curb illegal immigration, which was a central campaign platform.
“We cannot admit everyone who wants to come here,” Sessions said. He said that Obama’s unilateral executive amnesty…contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border with humanitarian consequences.” He also said that it “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”
Ten attorneys general had threatened to challenge the constitutionality of the program in court, a move that would have put Trump in the position of having to defend it. Trump campaigned on eliminating Obama’s executive order, but has more recently said that there was a need to treat those in the program with “heart.”
Trump, though, left the announcement to Sessions, who took no questions after making his statement. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that Congress needed to act. “Congress, get ready to do your job — DACA!”
The White House later issued a longer statement from Trump, in which he said, “As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful Democratic process – while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve. We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.”
It’s unclear, though, whether Congress will act, with the administration giving lawmakers six months before the program will be ended. Obama’s rationale for issuing an executive order was because an earlier legislative effort failed.
“It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
But Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) criticized Trump’s approach to the situation.
“While I disagreed with President Obama’s unilateral action on this issue, I believe that rescinding DACA at this time is an unacceptable reversal of the promises and opportunities that have been conferred to these individuals,” he said. Because DACA recipients provided their personal information and address to the government, the fear is that they will be vulnerable to deportation if their status changes.
A number of Silicon Valley and media executives signed on to an open letter urging that the undocumented immigrants — known as “dreamers” — be allowed to stay. AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, IAC’s Barry Diller and Casey Wasserman are among those who recently signed the letter, adding to a list that also includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Tim Cook.
The open letter from business executives made the case that all “DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes.
“Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions,” if DACA recipients lose their protections and face deportation, the letter continued, calling those recipients, also known as Dreamers, “vital to the future of our companies and our economy.”
Those in the DACA program have to meet a set of criteria, including having come to the U.S. with their parents before they turned 16. A fear is that if the program ends, their risk of deportation will only increase because the government will have access to their personal information.
Protests of the DACA decision were organized in several major cities Tuesday by immigrants rights groups. By 11 a.m., a small crowd had gathered outside Trump Tower in New York. NYPD officers began erecting barricades along Fifth Avenue, indicating that more people were expected throughout the day.
At 11:35 am a crowd of a few hundred demonstrators chanting “No fear, no papers” mounted a sit-down protest, stopping traffic on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street.
Demonstrators also appeared in front of the White House, as has been customary as the administration issues controversial decisions.
Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook after the announcement, “This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it.”
Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a pro-immigration reform group co-founded by Zuckerberg, said in a statement that “ultimately, every member of Congress must now decide whether they are going to allow Dreamers the chance to earn a path to citizenship by passing the bipartisan Dream Act, or whether they are going to watch as our neighbors and coworkers are ripped out of their jobs and our communities and deported to countries they may not even remember.”