• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Obama Speaks Out About Trump’s Decision To End DACA

Barack Obama Donald Trump

Former President Obama has been largely silent regarding political matters since leaving office just over seven months ago, however, he broke that silence today in response to the decision by President Trump to end the program he enacted five years ago to protect people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children:

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement Tuesday calling President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind DACA “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense.”

“Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules,” Obama wrote. “But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about.”

Obama signed the executive order creating the program in June 2012 and sees it as a major achievement. He promised after the election that any move to get rid of it would prompt him to speak out against his successor.

And with the Trump administration laying the blame for its move on Obama — his executive order was unconstitutional, the White House argued, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday morning cited “the previous administration’s disrespect for the legislative process” — the former president argued in his statement that he had waited for a bill to sign, but Congress never sent him one.

He said he refused to leave people brought illegally to the country as children in limbo.

“Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be,” Obama said, calling Trump’s move “wrong” and “self-defeating.”

The statement made several references to “the White House,” but did not mention Trump, either by name, or as the president specifically. But Obama portrayed the decision as one of pique and politics, not as a response to the prospective challenge in court that several Republican state attorneys general had threatened to bring. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that that lawsuit could have resulted in the program being ended abruptly.

“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question,” Obama said.

You can read the full statement here, but here are some of the more important parts:

Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. 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. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

(…)

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.

What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.

No doubt, there will be some criticism of the former President for speaking out publicly on political matters so soon after leaving office, thus to some extent breaking a precedent that has been largely followed since President George H.W. Bush was succeeded by President Clinton. While this has been a custom with regard to previous Administrations, though, it has by no measure become a rule of any kind, and Obama did make clear in one of his final press conferences that he did intend to follow this precedent but that there could possibly be exceptions if his successor chose to act in a manner that he felt required him to say something. When he said that, the former President specifically pointed to the DACA program and the possibility that President Trump could bring an end to a program that he felt was justified both legally, as a matter of policy, and morally. With today’s announcement, then, Trump basically guaranteed that his predecessor would seek to speak out against his decision.

As I’ve said in my previous posts on the President’s decision to end the DACA program, here and here, I essentially agree with what the former President said in his statement. Legally, the argument that DACA is either illegal or unconstitutional is by no means settled law regardless of what the White House may say. There is a strong and credible argument that the immigration laws that Congress has passed, combined with the prosecutorial discretion that the law has recognized as a prerogative of the Executive since before the founding of the United States, is more than sufficient to provide a legal basis for the former President’s actions. In any case, the appropriate venue for determining that question is a court of law, not the political branches and most certainly not a President who is clearly more concerned with pandering to his xenophobic, anti-immigrant base than he is with doing what is right or legal. Additionally, DACA was good policy both from an economic and moral point of view. Economically, it simply isn’t true that immigrants in general, or the DACA beneficiaries in particular, cost American jobs or that they hurt the economy. In fact, the evidence is strongly in favor of the argument that this group is a far greater benefit to the economy in general and job creation in particular than they are a hindrance of any kind. Morally speaking, there simply isn’t a valid argument in favor of what the Trump Administration has done today. With the exception of people who have committed violent crimes or who have long criminal records, sending people who have been part of the United States for as long as they can remember. As I said in my post earlier today, they have gone to American schools, adopted Amerian customs, assimilated into American society, and contributed to our economy in significant ways. Most recently, many of them were among the brave volunteers who helped save people in the wake of a devastating hurricane, in some cases even dying in the process of saving others.  Deporting them to a nation they have no real connection to would be cruel, inhumane, and un-American. Unfortunately, it would also be entirely consistent with what this country is turning into thanks to the man who won the election in November.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see just how involved in opposing the Administration’s decision the former President will become. The outrage oer the decision announced today has been swift, severe, and bipartisan. No doubt, this statement from the former President will only enhance that opposition and increase the pressure to do something to roll back what the Trump Administration has done. Arguably, the six-month delay in implementing this program has essentially put the ball in Congress’s support and, at least initially, there seems to be some indication that members of the House and Senat on both sides of the aisle are at least placing lip service to the idea of trying to revive the program. Whether that actually happens is, of course, another question and would likely require Republican leadership in both houses of Congress to accept the reality that they will need to work together with Democrats to do the right thing here even if it endangers their leadership position. Whether they’ll have the courage to do what’s right is a question I’ll leave for the future, but I’m going to guess that they won’t do anything of the sort.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    What makes no sense is that they didn’t have to unleash this shit-storm on themselves.
    It’s just another promise to the base. How many others will never come to pass? The base doesn’t care. They love their dear leader, no matter what he does, or does not accomplish.
    He could have left well enough alone. Or he could have pushed Congress to do something…the administration could have come up with…you know…A POLICY.
    Of course this is all because Republicans couldn’t come to terms with immigration and so Obama did what he could for these people. I have little faith that Republicans are now going to become sensitive to immigration.
    Another un-forced error from the most incompetent administration ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  2. Scott says:

    No doubt, there will be some criticism of the former President for speaking out publicly on political matters so soon after leaving office, thus to some extent breaking a precedent that has been largely followed since President George H.W. Bush was succeeded by President Clinton.

    This has been the custom for many successive administrations. However, it is also true that it is custom not to bash your predecessor, at least directly. Trump has not kept up with his end of the bargain.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 1

  3. Argon says:

    Regardless, the GOP deserves the overwhelming majority of blame. They alone blocked passage of the earlier legislation. They alone kowtowed to a fringe made rabid with anti-immigrant sentiment.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  4. Scott F. says:

    I miss Obama more with each passing day.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  5. Scott says:

    They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

    This is a true story. My Dad came to the US in 1925 when he was 2 years old. During WWII, he tried to join the Marines but was rejected because he wasn’t a citizen. He did not know that. He recalled being devastated.

    This is the punchline. Soon after, the Army drafted him. They, apparently, did not care.

    He received his citizenship in Plymouth, England just prior to being shipped to Normandy in the latter part of June some weeks after D-Day.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  6. TM01 says:

    So Obama properly went to Congress to ask for a change to the law.

    When Congress didn’t do that (the reasons are irrelevant), he decided to issue a decree, changing the law all on his own.

    And people STILL fret that it’s TRUMP who is going to shred the Constitution.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 33

  7. Jpe77 says:

    In any case, the appropriate venue for determining that question is a court of law, not the political branches and most certainly not a President

    Sure, just like you were so very upset over Obama unilaterally deciding that DOMA was unconstitutional and declined to defend it. Because you’re principled like that.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 17

  8. Daryl's other brother, Daryll says:

    @TM01:
    @Jpe77:
    So a complete lack of basic decency, eh guys?
    You won the lotto and got born in the US due to nothing you had anything to do with.
    I’m willing to bet you’ve done nothing to deserve it since.
    But fvck anyone else. Right?
    Morons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  9. Mikey says:

    There’s actually a significant legal issue here, and it’s that Trump’s DoJ has taken the exact opposite position of Obama’s on DACA. This is significant because Trump’s Solicitor General may well end up in front of SCOTUS and will argue in opposition to Obama’s.

    This, bluntly put, pisses off SCOTUS. The following exchange took place during oral argument in a 2012 case, wherein Obama’s SG Donald Verrilli took a position in opposition to prior administrations:

    Justice Antonin Scalia was not pleased. “Why should we listen to you rather than the solicitors general who took the opposite position?” he asked. “Why should we defer to the views of the current administration?”

    Mr. Verrilli responded, “Well, because we think they are persuasive.”

    That did not satisfy Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “Your successors may adopt a different view,” he said, adding, “Whatever deference you are entitled to is compromised by the fact that your predecessors took a different position.”

    (source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/us/politics/trump-supreme-court.html)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Tyrell says:

    I do not necessarily disagree with Obama’s opinions here. I do have a problem with his making comments and giving opinions about the actions of the current president. I do not recall Eisenhower criticizing Kennedy, Johnson criticizing Nixon, Nixon criticizing Ford, and so on. Maybe that happened, but I don’t remember reading about it.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 21

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I do not necessarily disagree with Obama’s opinions here. I do have a problem with his making comments and giving opinions about the actions of the current president. I do not recall Eisenhower criticizing Kennedy, Johnson criticizing Nixon, Nixon criticizing Ford, and so on. Maybe that happened, but I don’t remember reading about it.

    I recall, perhaps you do not, that President Trump accused former President Obama of having the Trump Tower put under government surveillance.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  12. Mikey says:

    Someone on Twitter pointed something else out: this could very well violate my “Iron Law of Presidential Power,” which states “no President will take an action that would reduce the power of the office.” It could very well end up that Trump has, at least in the view of his own DoJ.

    Not that he meant to, of course. His grasp of what the Presidency means is far too shallow and limited for him to understand what he may have done.

    (Maybe I should insert the word “intentionally…”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Mikey says:

    @Tyrell: As others have pointed out, this is yet another long-standing norm with which Trump has wiped his voluminous backside.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  14. dmichael says:

    Former President Obama issues a statement. How nice. That and $3.50 will get you a cup of coffee in the Senate cafeteria. While I supported much, if not all, of what Obama did do, I remain chagrined at what he DIDN’T do, including making public Russia’s interference in the election as soon as it was clear from the intelligence that it was happening. I am sure that the Dreamers will find solace in Obama’s statement which has no significance and which will have no effect on the Current Occupant. Meanwhile, HRC is trashing Bernie Sanders in her new book. Oy!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  15. JKB says:

    There is a strong and credible argument that the immigration laws that Congress has passed, combined with the prosecutorial discretion that the law has recognized as a prerogative of the Executive since before the founding of the United States, is more than sufficient to provide a legal basis for the former President’s actions.

    That is the very definition of the proper venue being the political branches. Arguably, someone with standing could seek judicial review of the statute in a long drawn out process. Or one could change the Executive exercising the prerogative to someone with a different prosecutorial discretion. And thus the matter is entirely in the political branches as the prior decision was nothing but the whim of the prior office holder and had no basis for continuation beyond the choice of the current office holder.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  16. Jack says:

    “We all agree on the need to better secure the border and punish employers who choose to hire illegal immigrants. We are a generous and welcoming people here in the United States, but those who enter the country illegally and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law and they are showing disregard for those who are following the law.” ~ Obama

    “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.” ~ Obama

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  17. Jack says:

    @Daryl’s other brother, Daryll:

    You won the lotto and got born in the US due to nothing you had anything to do with.

    Correct. It’s what my parents did. They were citizens of this nation dipshit. Thus, I am a citizen.

    But please, explain to me how it’s beneficial for America to be the world’s women’s shelter.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 21

  18. An Interested Party says:

    This, bluntly put, pisses off SCOTUS.

    You give some members of SCOTUS more credit than they deserve…no doubt that Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito will be more than happy to follow the Orange Mange’s lead and don’t give a damn about what the Obama Administration did…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  19. Daryl's other brother, Daryll says:

    @Jack:
    So your parents got lucky because their parents did something.
    But you think you’re better than these people.
    When I know from reading your comments…that you aren’t. Dip shut.
    We are a far better nation because of immigration, you fvcking idiot.
    Your inability to grasp that says everything we need to know about you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. MBunge says:

    Trump is right. Sessions is right. Obama is wrong. Mataconis is wrong. It doesn’t matter if DACA is good policy or not. This is CLEARLY an issue that Congress must deal with through the legislative process. If Congress fails to do so, it is CLEARLY wrong for any President to ride in as a Man on a White Horse and “fix” things.

    Let me put this in the only terms some of you are capable of understanding any longer. DACA, and the profound political dysfunction it symbolizes, helped get Trump elected. The more DACA-like action you permit, the more Trump-like reaction you will receive.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 25

  21. Davebo says:

    @MBunge: I’d say you were more influential in getting Trump elected than DACA which is to say neither were really an issue.

    But hey, be proud of yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  22. Davebo says:

    @MBunge: I’d say you were more influential in getting Trump elected than DACA which is to say neither were really an issue.

    But hey, be proud of yourself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  23. Terrye Cravens says:

    @MBunge: Congress had their chance and refused to deal with the issue. Bunted it…ignored it..pretended it did not exist…failed to do their job. BTW, this is about deferring prosecution. The President has a right to make such an order

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  24. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jack:..It’s what my parents did. They were citizens of this nation dipshit. Thus, I am a citizen.

    Amendment XIV of USCon states:

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

    Your parents could have been illegals from Syria and Mexico.
    If you were born in the United States you would still be a natural born American Citizen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  25. Daryl's other brother, Daryll says:

    @MBunge:
    Idiots like you got Trump elected. Idiots and racism. Most Trump supporters don’t even know what dysfunction means.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. Barry says:

    @Mikey: “Justice Antonin Scalia was not pleased. “Why should we listen to you rather than the solicitors general who took the opposite position?” he asked. “Why should we defer to the views of the current administration?”

    Mr. Verrilli responded, “Well, because we think they are persuasive.”

    That did not satisfy Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “Your successors may adopt a different view,” he said, adding, “Whatever deference you are entitled to is compromised by the fact that your predecessors took a different position.””

    I’ll accept this the minute that Mr. ‘Calls Balls and Strikes’ Roberts says that to one of Trump’s maggots.

    Until then, it’s just two corrupt right-wing judges supporting right-wing policies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. Barry says:

    @Mikey: “Someone on Twitter pointed something else out: this could very well violate my “Iron Law of Presidential Power,” which states “no President will take an action that would reduce the power of the office.” It could very well end up that Trump has, at least in the view of his own DoJ.”

    It screws over brown people; that is enough justification for anything. As for the DoJ, Sessions is AG, and that’s what he lives for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. EddieInCA says:

    The GOP is turning the whole country into California – poisionous for the GOP. It will take a bit to percolate…

    Watch what happens in Texas where Trump won by only one million votes and 5 million Latinos aren’t even registered to vote.

    Watch what happens in Florida, where 3 million Latinos are not registered.

    Watch what happens in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado.

    A reckoning is coming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mikey:

    That did not satisfy Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “Your successors may adopt a different view,” he said, adding, “Whatever deference you are entitled to is compromised by the fact that your predecessors took a different position.”

    Whatever deference Chief Justice Roberts is entitled to is compromised by the fact that his predecessors took a different position.

    And this is one of our brightest legal minds? The stupid…. it hurts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. wr says:

    How strange it is to be shocked that our former president knows how to take words and spin them into sentences, and then from those sentences construct paragraphs, all in service to the expression of an idea. This is one of the greatest losses we’ve suffered with the illiterate moron in the Oval Office. No wonder the bills and Jacks and Jenos’ all worship him — because he proves an idiot with no capacity for advanced thought can get power and use it to revenge himself on those he feels wronged him… the desperate dream of every one of these lowers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Richard DeMent says:

    @Tyrell:

    I do not recall Eisenhower criticizing Kennedy, Johnson criticizing Nixon, Nixon criticizing Ford, and so on. Maybe that happened, but I don’t remember reading about it.

    I don’t remember Kennedy Criticizing Eisenhower, Nixon criticizing Johnson, Ford criticizing Nixon,and so on. I don’t remember anyone talking about pussy grabbing and getting elected. You guys like to cheer on Trump when he breaks traditional norms, but get all butt hurt when people return the favor.

    Snowflake go home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  32. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Fork! I even miss Nixon, Reagan, and Dubya by comparison to what we’ve got today. I also miss having a functioning legislature and wish that we could get another public minded servant like Gingrich in charge.
    (I wish we had a snark font for the second sentence.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Your argument would be far more persuasive if Trump could be compared at all to Kennedy, Nixon (!!!???), Ford, Reagan, or anyone the fork else who has ever been President of the United States, Emperor of Rome, First World Dictator, or Tin Pot Despot anywhere ever.
    Just sayin’…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Daryl’s other brother, Daryll: Shorter Daryll: We already know that you are a douchecanoe (doucheoceanliner?); you don’t need to post to show us that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0