When Will DACA End? Jeff Sessions Is Taking A Hard Line
The Trump Administration is ending an Obama-era program that is currently shielding some 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors from deportation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday. The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, gives some undocumented people, known as DREAMers, the ability to work, get a drivers license, and attend college. Ending the program fulfills a core campaign promise from President Trump, who won office by taking a hard line against illegal immigration.
As Sessions stated in his announcement:
To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. That is an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.
However, the five-year old program is popular, with nearly three-quarters of Americans saying they're in favor of allowing people who are brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain in the country. While Republicans initially balked at President Obama's move to craft immigration law through executive action rather than through Congress, five years on, DACA is also popular with lawmakers.
We can't admit everyone who'd like to come here. It's just that simple.
Sessions took issue with Obama's executive action in Tuesday's remarks, framing it as an unconstitutional overreach by the former President.
This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.
Sessions, formerly the junior senator from Alabama, reportedly helped persuade Trump to seek a legislative solution through Congress, rather than tackling immigration law from the executive branch as Obama had done.
To that end, the Trump administration is instituting a waiting period on its decision to end DACA, during which time, Congress is tasked with finding a way to make it happen. The stopgap solution offered by the Trump administration is poised to pit hardline conservatives against more moderate Republicans as Congress works to craft a bill that will fulfill Trump's decision to end the program while maintaining support from voters.
"Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people," Session said in his statement, continuing:
We are a people of compassion and we are a people of law. But there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. ... Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.
The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our Founders in a way that advances the interest of the nation.
The administration has reportedly signaled that some DACA recipients may be able to renew their legal status over the course of the next month for an additional two years' legal protection. The government will stop accepting new applications, and the program is set to expire on March 5, 2018.
While Trump promised an end to DACA during his presidential campaign, he waited more than seven months in office to make good on that deal. "I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration, immediately," Trump promised the day he launched his presidential campaign in June 2015.
In an August 2016 speech in Arizona, Trump took aim at DACA as well as another Obama-era executive order, the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, saying:
We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.
But, at times, he took a softer approach to the fate of the children brought to the country illegally, telling TIME in a November interview, "I want DREAMers for our children also. We're going to work something out"; when asked by ABC News in January about how his policies would impact DREAMers, Trump told David Muir that "they shouldn't be very worried."
I do have a big heart. We're going to take care of everybody. We're going to have a very strong border. We're gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.
Trump's wavering isn't new to the West Wing: over his last seven-plus months in office, he's stalled decisions on whether or not to pull the U.S out of the Paris Climate Accord, and has repeatedly reversed his position on whether Republicans should repeal and replace Obamacare, with what, and in what order. The Trump administration was pressured to act by a group of conservative attorneys general who argued Obama's creation of the program was unconstitutional, and threatened a lawsuit if DACA wasn't rescinded.
Now Congress again faces a challenge to draw up a plan that meets the president's decision while earning enough support for passage — something the legislative branch wasn't able to do during a months-long effort to end the Affordable Care Act. Attempts at immigration reform died in Congress under President Obama's two terms in office, leading Obama to implement DACA and a policy for undocumented parents of citizen children through executive action. In a November 2014, Obama called on Congress, especially members who disagreed with his executive orders, to take their own steps towards fixing the issue of immigration.
[T]o those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.
Congress also faces pressure on a number of other issues: raising the debt ceiling; passing a budget; extending emergency relief funding to areas devastated by tropical storm Harvey; and renewing the National Flood Insurance Program and the Children's' Health Insurance Program before year's end. Long-promised tax reform and infrastructure reform — two Trump administration priorities — loom on the horizon, and the President reportedly hasn't given up on a promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act, despite a call from Republican leaders to move on.
During Tuesday's announcement on rescinding DACA, Sessions did not take questions from reporters, and Trump did not make an appearance.