President Donald Trump is ending the Obama-era program that protects hundreds of thousands of people who entered the United States illegally as children, with a six-month delay intended to allow Congress to act.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the Trump administration decision on Tuesday, argued that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was an unlawful overreach by President Barack Obama and said he could not defend it.
It sets up a potential rush for lawmakers to pass a bill protecting so-called dreamers before the Trump administration’s deadline. It is unclear if the GOP-held Congress, which has failed to pass similar legislation in the past, can do so in the near future as it faces multiple crucial deadlines to approve legislation.
Public opposition to rescinding the program had mounted recently amid protests around the country. Top Republican lawmakers like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as well as technology sector leaders, had pushed Trump not to scrap DACA.
Trump allies like Sessions urged him to end the program, arguing it will be difficult to defend in court. Critics have said that Obama exceeded his authority with the policy.
“Simply put if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and rule of law in America the Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach,” Sessions said Tuesday.
Scrapping DACA, which started in 2012 under Obama, could affect roughly 800,000 young people registered under the program. It gives the immigrants a two-year period of protection from deportation and permit to work in the United States.
Here’s what the Trump administration will do, according to the Department of Homeland Security:
- Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke has issued a memo formally rescinding DACA and starting what the administration calls an “orderly wind down.”
- The government will not process any new applications or requests for DACA protection.
- People currently protected will not be affected before March 5, 2018, “so Congress can have time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions,” according to Duke.
In a tweet Tuesday, the president said Congress needs to “get ready to do your job” on DACA. Trump did not signal what, specifically, what action he wants Congress to take in relation to the program.
Republican state officials had threatened to sue the Trump administration over DACA if had not been rescinded by Tuesday.
As a candidate, Trump pledged to end the program, but later softened his stance, saying he wanted to treat the immigrants with “heart.”
On Friday, Trump said he had a “great feeling for DACA.”
“We love the dreamers,” Trump said, using the name for the people protected under DACA. “We love everybody.”
In a statement Tuesday, Ryan criticized the Obama executive order but called for Congress to act to protect dreamers.
“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,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
In an open letter Thursday, nearly 400 U.S. executives, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, urged Trump to retain the protections.