U.S. President Donald Trump will let the ax fall on the program that shielded young undocumented immigrants from deportation but will give Congress six months to craft legislation to replace it. The move to formally scrap the program will be announced at 11 a.m. Tuesday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime opponent of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The decision to give Congress half a year to come up with an alternative represents an attempt to compromise after top Republicans and business leaders asked Trump to keep the program, which enjoys about 78 percent support in polls but has long been a target of ire for immigrant scapegoaters, nativists and white nationalists who see the program as an “illegal amnesty.”
The 2012 initiative provided a renewable two-year administrative relief from deportation to 800,000 qualifying undocumented migrants and granted them the right to enroll in college, legally find employment and obtain drivers’ licenses.
DACA holders are a fraction of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, most of whom came from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. More than 200,000 live in California, while 100,000 are in Texas. New York, Illinois and Florida also have large numbers.
Trump as a candidate promised to deport all DACA holders, but many in the United States have rallied to support the young adults who have spent the greater part of their lives in the country. The plan has been unpopular even among Republicans.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American Republican from Florida tweeted her dismay with the decision to scrap DACA: “After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’”, she added.
Texas and eight other states are threatening, to the White House, to end the program by Tuesday, while Sessions has remained silent on whether he would mount a defense of the program in court.
Aides to Trump have told the press that he may once again go back on the decision at the last minute.
Trump apparently asked aides for “a way out” of the bind he found himself in, a result of his campaign promises to deport the DACA youth and his pledge that the DACA holders had “nothing to worry about” and “the dreamers are terrific.” The stance, however, enraged the president’s white nationalist and anti-immigrant base, most visibly represented by former chief strategist Steve Bannon, Attorney General Sessions and hard-line adviser Stephen Miller.
Placing the onus on Congress
The “way out” appears to have been crafted by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who convinced Trump to place the onus for devising a legislative solution on a divided Congress.
“Some in the media take seriously the notion that he is ‘conflicted’ or ‘wrestling’ with the decision, as though Trump were engaged in a great moral debate,” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote in an editorial Monday that also described Trump as so “thoroughly ignorant and non-analytical” that he could easily be led around “by the nose” by aides like Sessions and Miller.
“The debate, if there is one, is over whether to disappoint his rabid anti-immigrant base or to, as is his inclination, double down on a losing hand.
“If Trump cancels DACA,” Rubin continued, “it will be one more attempt to endear himself to his shrinking base with the only thing that truly energizes the dead-enders: vengeance fueled by white grievance. And it will also be an act of uncommon cowardice.”
The decision to kick the can down the road has also failed to satisfy Trump’s anti-immigrant followers who are demanding that he decisively terminate the program.
“It’s not clear what delaying this for six months means,” said Mark Krikorian, the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, a right-wing group founded by white nationalist and eugenics proponent John Tanton. “He’s being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and because he doesn’t have any strong ideological anchor, or deep knowledge of the issue, he ends up sort of not knowing what to do. I think the fact that they did nothing to it suggests that they had no idea what to do.”
New York and Washington state vowed Monday to sue Trump if he scraps DACA, with attorneys general Eric Schneiderman and Bob Ferguson, respectively, pledging to defend the program. The two are among 20 attorneys general who wrote to Trump in July to say that if he ended the program, they would defend it “by all appropriate means.”
“The federal government has the cell phone and home address of every DACA recipient,” Todd Schulte of Silicon Valley-backed lobbyist group FWD.us told The Times.
“They grew up here, they work at nearly every major company in America, serve in the military and many are working on recovery efforts in Texas… If DACA is repealed and no permanent legislation passed, they will all be fired and our government will begin the large-scale deportation of people raised in the United States, using information they volunteered to the government with the promise it would never be used against them or their families.”
Top photo | A supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, waves a flag during a rally outside the White House, in Washington, Sept. 4, 2017. A plan President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children was embraced by some top Republicans on Monday and denounced by others as the beginning of a “civil war” within the party. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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