US Immigration

Donald Trump’s administration rescinds DACA, exposing young immigrants to deportation and reiterating hardline stance

About 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children have received renewable, two-year work permits under DACA

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 2018, 6:11am

US President Donald Trump ended an Obama-era programme preventing the deportation of immigrants illegally brought to the US as children, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, putting in legal limbo about 1 million people who consider themselves Americans.

“I am here today to announce that the programme known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Sessions told reporters.

“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple. That would be an open-border policy and the American people have rightly rejected that.”

The decision was slammed by former President Barack Obama, who initiated the programme.

“Let’s be clear,” wrote Obama in an 850-word statement. “The action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question.”

“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.”

Trump will delay the end of the programme, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, for six months in the hope that Congress can pass legislation to codify the protections Barack Obama created.

“Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday morning as lawmakers returned to Washington from their August recess.

Sessions announced Trump’s decision at a news conference at the Department of Justice.

Business leaders and lawmakers from both parties have warned the president that ending the programme would have economic and social consequences.

Some Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, said while they don’t agree with the executive action that began the policy five years ago, it should be up to Congress to come up with a more permanent solution.

Silicon Valley titans including Apple, Facebook and Google on Tuesday condemned the dismantling of amnesty for young immigrants.

The reaction came swiftly after Trump announced a termination of the programme protecting 800,000 people brought to the United States as minors from deportation.

“This is a sad day for our country,” Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg said in a post at the leading online social network, reacting to the decision By Trump to end DACA.

“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.”

Top executives from a growing list of technology firms called young people shielded by DACA friends and neighbours who have contributed to local communities and economies.

“I am deeply dismayed that 800,000 Americans – including more than 250 of our Apple coworkers – may soon find themselves cast out of the only country they’ve ever called home,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in an email to employees. “They are called Dreamers, and regardless of where they were born, they deserve our respect as equals.”

A majority of the nearly 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the United States illegally as children and protected under DACA are Mexican nationals, or some 625,000, according to Carlos Sada, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister.

“They are exceptional. This is as emotional for the United States as for Mexico,” he said at a news conference immediately following the announcement to end the programme.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Monday that Obama’s action was “a presidential overreach” but that the immigrants it protects “know no country other than America.”

“If President Trump makes this decision we will work to find a legislative solution to their dilemma,” he said in a statement.

Polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe that immigrants protected from deportation by DACA should be allowed to remain in the US.

Trump during last year’s campaign described the programme as unconstitutional and promised to end it on his first day in office. Since assuming the presidency, though, he has spoken kindly of DACA’s beneficiaries and his administration has granted thousands of new permits to so-called “Dreamers”.

I am here today to announce that the programme known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded
Jeff Sessions, attorney general

Attorneys general in 10 states threatened a legal challenge if the programme continued beyond September 5, creating a political deadline for Trump to make a decision on DACA. One state, Tennessee, dropped its threat in a letter from the state attorney general last week, citing the programme’s “human element”.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described the move to end DACA as a “cruel act of political cowardice” by Trump and called for a legislative fix.

“Congress must move immediately to protect these courageous, patriotic Dreamers,” Pelosi said Monday in a statement. “House Republicans must join Democrats to pass legislation to safeguard our young DREAMers from the senseless cruelty of deportation and shield families from separation and heartbreak.”

There are a few legislative possibilities, including two bills introduced by Republican senators. The Dream Act of 2017 would codify parts of the DACA programme, and the Bridge Act would extend those same protections for three years to give lawmakers more time to work out a more permanent solution.

Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, also plans to introduce a measure shielding the young immigrants from deportation for five years if they work, pursue higher education or serve in the military.

But Congress faces a time crunch in September: It already must pass legislation to fund the government, raise the nation’s borrowing authority and increase disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Republicans have also been told they have until September 30 to utilise a procedure in the Senate that would allow them to pass legislation changing or repealing ObamaCare without facing a filibuster.

Adding a controversial issue such as immigration risks imperilling their agenda and stalling other priorities, chiefly an overhaul of the US tax code.

Trump will face pressure from conservatives and some outside advisers to pair any legislative protections for Dreamers with reductions to legal immigration and stricter border enforcement. That could reduce the chances of reaching a bipartisan deal in Congress.

“There will be lots of members of Congress falling all over themselves to create an amnesty programme, but they will include only token enforcement measures without cuts in legal immigration,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Centre for Immigration Studies, a group that has pushed to reduce both legal and illegal immigration to the US “The president should veto anything like that.”

House Republicans must join Democrats to pass legislation to safeguard our young DREAMers from the senseless cruelty of deportation
Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader

About 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children have received renewable, two-year work permits under DACA and are protected from deportation. Recipients have to undergo a background check and certify that they had not been convicted of any serious crimes.

Ending the programme would cost employers US$6.3 billion to dismiss roughly 720,000 workers and retrain their replacements, according to a report by David Bier of the Cato Institute. More than 350 chief executives of major companies signed a letter to the president last week urging him to preserve DACA’s protections.

Obama, who began the programme in 2012, has said he would feel compelled to involve himself in the debate if Trump were to end the programme and begin deporting people who were brought to the US as children.

In June, the Department of Homeland Security said it would formally end the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans programme, or DAPA, that would have protected from deportation as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants whose children are US citizens. The Obama-era programme never took effect after a Texas court blocked it.

Texas is leading the challenge to DACA. In a June 29 letter to Sessions, the 10 state attorneys general said they would file suit against the programme in the same Texas court that blocked deportation protections for parents of citizens.