"Dreamers" given six-month deferral on possible deportation
President Trump has given Congress six months to address the problem of children who were brought to the United States illegally, many of whom have become full-fledged Americans in many ways but one: they have no legal residency status.
After months of trying to decide whether or not to cancel his predecessors executive action that protected such children of illegal immigrants from deportation—it had been a Trump campaign promise—the president decided to cancel the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But he deferred his own action until March 5, 2018, urging Congress to devise an acceptable solution.
Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general, announced Tuesday morning that the government will no longer accept new applications from undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation under DACA. There are already an estimated 800,000 people in the program. Calling DACA a “unilateral executive amnesty” of the Obama Administration, Sessions said it contributed to the surge of minors at the southern border over the past few years, “with humanitarian consequences.”
“I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Trump said in a written statement. “But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
“Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class, and economic fairness for all Americans,” Trump said, calling the DACA program an “amnesty-first approach.”
According to the New York Times, 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 Oct 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:
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.
The program, initiated in 2012, provided no legal status or government benefits but did provide recipients with temporary employment authorization to work in the United States.
Reaction from both sides of the issue was swift and heated on Tuesday. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called Trump’s decision “reprehensible.”
“These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home,” said the bishops’ statement. “The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education.”
Many individual bishops, in their own statements, focused on the biblical injunction to “welcome the stranger.”
“This Gospel mandate to actively reach out and welcome the stranger has guided our Catholic social values and practices for centuries,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis. “Throughout our Catholic tradition, we have learned to be attentive to the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable. In faith, we have come to recognize and know the face of Christ in the migrant and refugee.”
But Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, argued that DACA is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers and the president’s duty to execute the laws faithfully.
“DACA … presumes to exercise legislative power by conferring positive legal benefits on a category of aliens,” McCarthy writes, citing work permits as an example of those legal benefits. “Second, it distorts the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion to rationalize this presidential legislating and to grant a de facto amnesty.”
John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, said in a statement that he hopes President Trump will sign legislation that would provide the same relief as DACA, “if Congress can finally agree to address this serious concern.”
“The more than 800,000 young people who qualified for this provision were brought to the United States by their parents or guardians,” Garvey said. “They abide by our laws, are employed or seeking an education, and contribute to our economy and our communities. … DACA has given young people a shot at an education and a better life. Elimination without a more comprehensive solution means abandonment. We can and must do better.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement: “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.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called Trump’s decision “heartless.” He said Democrats “will do everything we can to prevent President Trump’s terribly wrong order from becoming reality.”