Trump Administration Announces End Of DACA, With Six Month Delay
Late this morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was announced in the summer of 2012 by President Obama and has impacted the lives of some three-quarters of a million people who were brought to the U.S. as children, would come to an end in six months:
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation and called on Congress to replace the policy with legislation before it fully expires on March 5, 2018.
The government will no longer accept new applications from undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, administration officials announced Tuesday. But officials said about 800,000 current beneficiaries of the program will not be immediately affected by what they called an “orderly wind down” of former President Barack Obama’s policy.
President Trump signaled the move early Tuesday morning in a tweet, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced the move to shift the responsibility for the immigration issue to lawmakers.
“The program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Mr. Sessions told reporters, adding that “The policy was implemented unilaterally, to great controversy and legal concern.”
Mr. Sessions called the Obama-era policy an “open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” and an unconstitutional use of executive authority. “The executive branch through DACA deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions,” he said.
“The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we accept each year, and that means all cannot be accepted.”
Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, said in a statement that Mr. Trump chose to “wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation.”
The announcement was an effort by Mr. Trump to honor his campaign pledge to end Mr. Obama’s immigration policy, while avoiding an immediate termination of protections and work permits for the so-called “dreamers,” many of whom have lived in the United States since they were small children.
“We are people of compassion, and we are people of law, but there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration law,” Mr. Sessions said.
Referring to Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to immediately terminate DACA, Mr. Sessions said Tuesday’s action was what “the president had promised to do,” adding that Mr. Trump “has delivered to the American people.”
But the announcement formally started the clock on revoking legal status from those protected under the five-year-old program.
Officials said some of the current immigrants already receiving protection under the Obama-era plan will be able to renew their two-year period of legal status until October 5. But the announcement means that if Congress fails to act, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children could face deportation as early as March to countries where many of them have never lived.
Immigration officials said that they do not intend to actively target the young immigrants as priorities for deportation, though without the program’s protection, the immigrants are considered subject to removal from the United States and would no longer be able to work legally.
Homeland Security officials said no specific guidance would be issued to agents to shield the young undocumented immigrants from deportation. It would be up to Congress to extend such protection, they said.
None of this comes as a surprise, of course. For several weeks now there had been suggestions that Trump was leaning toward ending the program, but its fate remained uncertain, especially in light of comments that Trump himself had made both during the 2016 campaign and after he took office that seemed to suggest at least some sympathy for the 750,000 people who had received deferrals from deportation from the program over the past five years. This was despite the fact that he often told supporters at campaign rallies that he would end DACA as one of his first acts as President. Additionally, the Administration was being pressured by a group of Republican state Attorneys General who were threatening to sue the Administration if they failed to announce that the program would be ending by today. Even late last week when the White House announced that the President would be making an announcement regarding the fate of the program today, though, it wasn’t clear which way the President would proceed. Additionally, the fact that most of the news last week was focused on the impact of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the surrounding area meant that very little attention was being paid to other issues such as the fate of this program. By the Sunday, though, the fate of the DACA program seemed clear as Politico reported that the program would end but that the decision would be delayed for six months, ostensibly to give Congress time to act to save it assuming the support could be found to do so.
In his announcement, Attorney General Sessions repeated the claim that many on the right have made that President Obama acted illegally when he implemented the DACA program five years ago, but that is by no means certain. At the time of the announcement, the Administration asserted that existing law gave the President sufficient discretionary authority to implement the program as part of a broader exercise of the traditional discretion granted to prosecutors over whether or not to press charges when it comes to any other violation of the law. Notwithstanding the legal arguments made by Texas and the other Republican states that were threatening litigation over the program, there is at least some support in the law for this matter. Additionally, it’s worth noting that while the subsequent program enacted by former President Obama that extended DACA-like protections to the parents of many DAPA beneficiaries had been the subject of several adverse Court rulings, for the most part those rulings were based on the Administration’s decision to implement the program without complying with certain provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act that require a notice and comment period for regulatory changes, As a result, even that more controversial program has not been declared to be per se illegal.
Leaving aside the legal issues, it’s clear that DACA was a wise decision from a policy point of view and that ending it is quite simply the wrong position to take. As has been noted many times in the past, the people who benefited from DACA were brought to this country as children who had no real say regarding the question of whether to cross the border illegally or not. Most of them have lived the vast majority of their lives in the United States and have no real memory of, or connection with the nation they were born in, and some don’t even have family members in the country with whom they could connect should they be deported thanks to this decision. In the time that these people have been in the country, 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. To kick them out of the country at a whim in this manner is quite simply cruel, heartless, and accomplishes nothing other than allowing this President to pander to the same xenophobic, anti-immigrant base that he has pandered to since beginning his campaign for President two years ago.
In theory, the six-month delay opens the door to Congress taking action to save the program via legislation, and at least on paper, there does seem to be some support for doing just that. Over the past week, several top Republicans, along with other groups tied to the Republican Party, voiced support for DACA and called on the President to keep it rather than seeking to end it. This list has included Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch, as well a host of other Republicans such as Florida Governor Rick Scott and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. Outside of politics, support for keeping the program came from the business community and religious groups. Additionally, Speaker Ryan himself has voiced support for Congressional legislation that would essentially codify the DACA program by extending the protections given to this group of people It has also been suggested that the program could be saved by a deal that would allow funding for the President’s border wall to be put into the budget that Congress must pass before the end of the month in exchange for making the DACA program permanent. How much support there would be for such a deal among Democrats in either the House or the Senate is unclear, however.
In any case, the ball is now in Congress’s court, and we’ll see if the Republicans who spent the last two weeks or so urging the President to keep DACA in place meant what they said.