Former President Barack Obama has called President Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the so-called DACA program “cruel” and “self-defeating”.
The program provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation. The Trump administration announced it’s rescinding the program and leaving it to Congress to come up with an alternative.
Obama did not mention Trump by name in his statement but wrote in a Facebook post a “shadow has been cast” over some of the nation’s best and brightest young people.
Targeting them is wrong “because they have done nothing wrong”, he said.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
Obama says it’s up to members of Congress to act and he joins his voice with the majority of Americans who hopes Congress will step up.
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally,” Obama said. “It’s a political decision, and a moral question.”
“Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
The action was announced not by the president but by Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, who called theprogram an unconstitutional overreach by Obama. There would be an “orderly, lawful wind-down,” Sessions said.
Trump issued a written statement saying that “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognise that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
0:00 US rescinds protections for young immigrants Share US rescinds protections for young immigrants
Trump later told reporters he has “great heart” for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and he wants Congress to produce a legislative solution for them.
“I have a great heart for the folks we’re talking about, a great love for them,” Trump said
“I can tell you in speaking to members of Congress they want to be able to do something and do it right and really we have no choice.”
The administration said nobody covered by the program, which provided work permits in addition to deportation protection and primarily benefits Hispanics, would be affected before March 5.
Most of the people covered by DACA are in their 20s.
People react toAttorney General Jeff Sessions announce the end of the program that protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, known as DACA, AAP
By deferring the actual end of the program, Trump effectively kicked responsibility for the fate of those covered by DACA to his fellow Republicans who control Congress. But neither Trump nor Sessions offered details of the type of legislation they would want to see, and Trump’s spokeswoman offered only a broad outline.
Since Trump took office in January, Congress has been unable to pass any major legislation, most notably failing on a healthcare overhaul, and lawmakers have been bitterly divided over immigration in the past.
0:00 New York angered after Trump ends immigration program Share New York angered after Trump ends immigration program
The looming congressional elections in November 2018 could also complicate prospects for compromise between the two parties and within an ideologically divided Republican Party.
The Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, said a coalition of states planned to file suit in the coming days to defend DACA, and one advocacy group announced its own legal action.
0:00 Protests outside the White House after DACA announcement Share Protests outside the White House after DACA announcement
“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America,” said Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.
“This is a sad day for our country,” added Facebook Inc (FB.O) founder Mark Zuckerberg. “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.”
Nearly 800,000 people stepped forward, admitted their illegal immigrant status and provided personal information to the government to apply for the DACA program, and now face the potential of being deported starting in March.
The “Dreamers” are a fraction of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of whom are Hispanic.
Supporters of the program argue that people covered by it were raised and educated in the United States and integrated into society, with scant ties to their countries of origin. Opponents of DACA argue against amnesty for illegal immigrants and say that such immigrants take jobs from US citizens.
“The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.
Sessions said the action does not mean DACA recipients are “bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way.”
“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,” Sessions said.
Ending DACA was the latest action by Trump that is sure to alienate Hispanic Americans, a growing segment of the US population and an increasingly important voting bloc. Most of the immigrants protected by DACA came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The Mexican government said it “profoundly laments” the decision to phase out DACA and would strengthen efforts to guarantee consular protections for affected Mexican youth.