Today (September 5), after many months of uncertainty, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s plan to repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—a program that protected nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
Five years ago, former President Barack Obama made the policy the law of the land, giving young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before they were 16 years old work permits, social security numbers and temporary relief from deportation proceedings. Trump’s campaign promises to deport immigrants led many to worry about the safety of DACA.
On June 6, the Trump administration rolled back the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which granted amnesty to some undocumented parents. Some DACA-recipients have already encountered deportation and immigration enforcement. In April, Juan Montes became one of the first DACA recipients to be deported under Trump.
Today, Sessions said that “the Department of Justice has advised the president and the Department of Homeland Security that the Department of Homeland Security should began an orderly, lawful wind down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program.”
He called the decision, “the compassionate thing to do.” Sessions did not detail the terms of the “wind down,” but said deportation action will be delayed for six months and pushed Congress to make a decision on immigration legislation during that period.
Sessions called DACA an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” saying it created a surge of immigrants at the border and created an employment crisis,” without providing statistics to support his claims. He later said, “the Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach.” He did not say how this decision squares with Trump’s previous assertions that he would focus his deportation efforts on immigrants with criminal records, as DACA applicants cannot join the program if they have felonies or multiple misdemeanors.
Ahead of the announcement, DACA recipients and their supporters reacted to the White House’s news that the president would soon make a decision on DACA with Twitter campaigns and rallies, urging people to contact Congress and pushing Trump to leave the policy in place. Actions included a sit-in led by Movimiento Cosecha at Trump Tower in New York City, and a mass gathering of protestors at the White House.
If you haven’t noticed, my TL today is going to be dedicated mostly to #defendDACA and the value of humans, not the value of their labor.— writing for #Harvey (@anthoknees) September 4, 2017
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress also renounced the president’s decision to repeal DACA. On Friday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan urged the president to hold off on rescinding the DACA program. “I believe this is something Congress has to fix,” Ryan said on radio station WCLO in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin.
CAP Action (@CAPAction) September 1, 2017
He wasn’t the only one.
For all the members of Congress over the past 5 years who said DACA should’ve been done “legislatively” here’s your chance. #DefendDACA— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) September 4, 2017
California has 220K kids who are living in utter terror right now. This fight is real and present. We have to speak out to #DefendDACA.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 30, 2017
Many leading civil rights groups and racial organizations also responded to the president’s decision, with many of them calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017, which Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced in July. If passed, it would legislate a path to permanant residency for the DREAMers.
Key passages from those reactions:
Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
The NAACP strongly condemns Donald Trump’s decision to terminate DACA while continually embracing a racist agenda, intent upon destroying both dreams and DREAMers. Trump words, actions and policies represent a frightening reminder of the White House’s strategic abdication of its moral authority in exchange for policies designed to shrink our democracy and divide our nation.
Kathy Ko Chin, resident of the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum:
DACA has allowed immigrant children and young adults to grow, learn, thrive and contribute to their communities without fear of deportation. Doing away with this program takes away opportunities from students who want to learn, employees who want to work, and a generation of young immigrants with fresh ideas. Immigrants and their families are the foundation of our nation’s history and our policies must reflect that.
Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians:
We stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters. Tribal communities know too well the impacts of federal policies that rip apart families and attempt to destroy communities. Preserving DACA is fundamentally about fairness and respecting the basic humanity of immigrant youth.
Clarissa Martinez De Castro, deputy vice president of UnidosUS:
Studies show DACA beneficiaries will contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. economy over the next 10 years. The program enjoys widespread public support. It is a disgrace that the president has abused the power of his office to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who engaged in systematic racial profiling and then refused to comply with court orders to end the practice—rather than to protect DACA youth, who have done everything that America has asked of them.
Glenn Harris, Colorlines publisher and president of Race Forward:
Trump’s decision to dismantle DACA further illustrates the Administration’s continuous and reprehensible assaults on communities of color. This move will only serve to shatter families and drive hundreds of thousands of our future leaders, thinkers, and innovators back into the shadows. We, as a multiracial movement, must safeguard the civil rights of our immigrant youth.
The Department of Justice’s transcript of Sessions’ speech is available here. Watch the speech below.