The Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has drawn swift backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Former President Barack Obama launched DACA through executive actions in 2012. The program shields nearly 800,000 young immigrants brought illegally to the US as minors from deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a press conference that the Trump administration will begin “an orderly and lawful wind-down” of the program.
“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.”
The announcement immediately sparked criticism from Democrats, Republicans, and business leaders.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a statement calling the decision “heartless” for “ripping apart families and telling people who have worked hard to become Americans for years that they have to leave the country.”
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Schumer added that ending DACA will have a substantial “human and economic toll” and that Democrats would do “everything we can to prevent President Trump’s terribly wrong order from becoming reality.”
Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who first introduced the DREAM Act sixteen years ago, said that “despite many of the terrible immigration policies” Trump’s administration has put forward, “I have always held out the hope that President Trump would keep his work [sic] and ‘take care’ of the Dreamers. After all, the President told American, ‘we love the Dreamers.'”
The Illinois senator then pushed for Congress to quickly act to halt the “mass deportations” of Dreamers.
Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted: “Brought by parents, these children had no choice in coming here. Now they’ll be sent to countries they’ve never known. Cruel. Not America.”
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House Speaker Paul Ryan praised Trump’s decision to end DACA. He called the program “a clear abuse of executive authority, an attempt to create law out of thin air,” and said that by rescinding the program, Trump was fulfilling his promise to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branches.
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Ryan added, however, that there is still more to do, and that it’s up to Congress to work with Trump to come up with a comprehensive solution to the immigration issue.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the Trump administration’s decision “a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America.”
She added that carrying out the order to rescind DACA would destroy the lives of thousands of “patriotic young people, costing the economy billions and betraying the fundamental values of the American Dream.”
Pelosi echoed Schumer’s assessment that the decision was “heartless” and cruel, and said that it warranted an immediate response from the Republican-controlled Congress.
Arizona Sen. John McCain came out against the administration’s decision and said that children “who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know.”
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McCain also said Trump’s decision was “the wrong approach to immigration policy at a time when both sides of the aisle need to come together” on immigration reform.
“The 800,000 innocent young people granted deferred action under DACA over the last several years are pursuing degrees, starting careers, and contributing to our communities in important ways,” McCain said in a statement. “While I disagreed with President Obama’s unilateral action on this issue, I believe that rescinding DACA at this time is an unacceptable reversal of the promises and opportunities that have been conferred to these individuals.”
He continued: “The federal government has a responsibility to defend and secure our borders, but we must do so in a way that upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation. I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to devise and pass comprehensive immigration reform, which will include the DREAM Act.”
Major business leaders also spoke out against DACA’s removal. Business Roundtable, a large group of influential CEOs led by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, released a statement opposing ending the program without a legislative solution in place.
- Yuri Gripas/Reuters; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
“America is and always has been a country of immigrants,” Dimon said in the statement. “We should do everything in our power to continue to attract the best and brightest because they make us stronger as a people and as an economy. And, when people come here to learn, work hard and give back to their communities, we should allow them to stay in the United States.”
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said he had urged Trump not to rescind the program, because it puts DREAMers, “who were brought here as children through no fault of their own, in an extremely difficult position.”
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Hatch added that while he agreed the US needs a stricter immigration policy, it also needs a “real, permanent solution” from Congress recognizing the contributions DREAMers make to society and the economy.
Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is also the second highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, emphasized his belief that Congress needed to work out a “long-term resolution” to protect DREAMers from being deported.