The Trump administration said Tuesday it will rescind the DACA program that granted temporary protection from deportation to some 787,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children –so-called Dreamers.
In a statement, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said the administration will let the program wind down in six months, giving Congress until March 5 of next year to enact legislation that may provide a path to regularization to some Dreamers.
Duke said no current beneficiaries will be affected during the six-month period but, “No new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on.”
In making the official announcement during a short press briefing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the 2012 Executive Action by President Obama that enacted the DACA program was “an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” and “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
Earlier on Tuesday President Trump tweeted “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA” – placing the onus on the Legislative branch to pull the program’s recipients out of their six-month limbo.
Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
Reactions to Trump’s announcement appeared on social media almost immediately. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called it “a giant setback for America.”
“President Trump’s action on DACA is cruel — it threatens to tear families apart, puts our economy at risk, and will do nothing to unify America or make us more secure,” the mayor said on a Facebook post. “I urge Congress to act as quickly as possible to pass legislation to protect the beneficiaries of DACA, giving millions of our relatives, friends, and neighbors the security and peace of mind that they deserve.”
On Tuesday, there were reports of protests by immigration advocates in various cities around the country. In Los Angeles, a coalition of activist and immigrant rights groups announced a rally Tuesday evening outside a scheduled “Keeping Immigrant Communities Safe” panel at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown featuring Garcetti, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and LAPD Deputy Chief Horace Frank.
Threat of a lawsuit, a ‘fake’ deadline
Trump faced a Tuesday deadline imposed by a group of Republican state attorneys general, led by Texas, who threatened to sue to have a federal judge declare DACA unconstitutional. There is consensus among Trump’s top advisers –including Attorney General Sessions and chief of staff (and former secretary of Homeland Security) John Kelly– that the program would not stand up in a court of law.
But legal experts from the National Immigration Law Center and other advocacy organizations have said the pressure is purely political and called it a “fake” deadline. And putting an end to DACA faces opposition even within Trump’s party.
Opposition from Democrats –and Republicans
On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) urged the president not to pull back on DACA. “I actually don’t think he should do that, and I believe this is something Congress has to fix.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla) wrote on Twitter: “@POTUS must uphold pledge 2 treat #DREAMers with “great heart” + give these young folks certainty 2 stay in US, the only country they know.”
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) August 31, 2017
Last week, hundreds of leaders nationwide –including eight governors five attorneys general, more than 130 mayor and 230 state legislators, mostly Democrats– signed a statement asking the president to reconsider. The document, which highlights the economic contributions Dreamers have made to their communities since the program was launched, said the U.S. economy would lose $460 billion over the next decade if DACA were terminated. Additionally, the letter said, businesses would incur $3.4 billion in turnover costs to replace their DACA employees.
Also last week, some public officials expressed concern about canceling the program as residents of Texas and Louisiana struggled with the effects of hurricane Harvey. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that 144,000 DACA participants live in those two states.
Friends on Fox, activists on streets
On Sunday, two close Trump allies went on separate news shows on Fox News to defend the president’s reported decision –although neither specified what that decision would be.
On “Fox & Friends”, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Trump “wants to do what’s fair to the American worker, what’s fair to people in this country who are competing for jobs and other benefits” and that his decision is part of a wider “entire economic and domestic agenda” that includes ending sanctuary cities and building a wall along the southern border.
“He says we have to keep people and poison out our communities. People who are coming here illegally and competing for those jobs,” she said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that he was “less concerned about the economic impact” of ending DACA because “we’ll make sure that we have plenty of workers in this economy. We want to put more people back to work.
Pro-immigrant groups began mobilizing on Friday when it became apparent that a DACA announcement was imminent. According to published reports, about 200 activists protested outside the Federal building on Friday, voicing their opposition to an end to the program. And hundreds more, organized by the group UndocuMedia, joined a Labor Day rally held Monday in downtown Los Angeles.
— UndocuMedia (@undocumedia) September 4, 2017
— California Endowment (@CalEndow) September 4, 2017
While more protests are expected around the country Tuesday, some activists recommended caution.
“It’s important to know that DACA is still in place,” said Victor Narro, Project Director of the UCLA Labor Center, in a statement released Sunday. “Although the media have been reporting its potential end, such decision has not been made official. DACA recipients deserve a direct and on the record announcement by the White House. If the program is to end, young immigrants shall have to unite and re-strategize. Let’s not forget DACA happened because young immigrants fought for it.”
This post was updated on Sept. 5 with new information about Trump’s announcement and reactions and rewritten throughout.
Photo above from the California Endowment Twitter feed.
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