Former President Barack Obama spoke out on Tuesday against the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that shields from deportation nearly 800,000 young immigrants living in the country illegally after being brought to the US as minors.
In a Facebook post written shortly after the announcement was made, Obama said the White House’s decision was not about improving immigration policy, adding that it was a political decision, not a legal one. After explaining why he established the program, Obama said Trump’s decision to rescind it was “self-defeating” and “cruel.”
“What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer?” he wrote. “Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?”
He continued: “Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a press conference on Tuesday that the Trump administration would begin “an orderly and lawful wind-down” of the program, originally implemented by Obama in 2012.
“To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone that wants to come here,” Sessions said. “As attorney general, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the constitutional order is upheld.”
Sessions also lambasted Obama for implementing an “unconstitutional exercise of authority,” and he described the 800,000 DACA recipients as “mostly adult illegal aliens” that had deprived American citizens of jobs and encouraged further illegal immigration.
Sessions said during his announcement on Tuesday that DACA, “among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
Obama, as well as several Democratic lawmakers as well as some Republicans, noted that it was not DREAMers’ fault they were brought to the US illegally.
“They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants,” he wrote. “They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”
Sessions gave no details on Tuesday about how the program would be wound down, but a press release from the Department of Homeland Security – first reported by the news website Axios – said the program would be phased out over six months.
Trump said in a statement that the action was aimed at creating a permanent legislative solution to the issue.
“There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will,” he said, adding, “It is now time for Congress to act!”
Obama also touched on Congress’ responsibility in his Facebook post, writing that he asked lawmakers to send a bill to his desk that would protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. “The bill never came,” he wrote.
Still, he said that ending the program would not, as Sessions implied, improve the economy, raise wages, or reduce taxes.
Now that Trump has ended the program, Obama called on Congress to act to find a long-term solution to protect DREAMers. “I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel,” the former president wrote.
“Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be,” he concluded.
Read Obama’s full Facebook post below: