ST. GEORGE – The Trump administration made the expected announcement Tuesday that a program that has protected nearly 800,000 immigrants who were brought into the county illegally as children is being phased out.
An Obama-era program created by executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is considered to be “an unconstitutional exercise of authority,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday, and therefore must be revoked.
“I’m here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Sessions said.
DACA has provided the young immigrants the ability to work legally within the United States without fear of deportation via two-year, renewable permits. With Tuesday’s announcement new applications have been halted.
Young immigrants who have benefited from the program have come to be known as “Dreamers.”
The program is set to be phased out over the next six months during which time the government will continue to process permits already in the system.
According to Department of Homeland Security officials, people with permits whose renewals are set to expire between now and March 5, 2018, will be able to reapply — so long as their applications are submitted by Oct. 5 this year. No permits will be revoked before their existing expiration dates, they said, and applications already in the pipeline will be processed.
The decision has drawn both favor and criticism.
“I called the president last week to urge him not to rescind DACA because I believe it puts Dreamers, who were brought here as children through no fault of their own, in an extremely difficult position,” Sen. Orrin Hatch said Tuesday.
I agree with the president — we need tougher enforcement of our immigration laws, but we also need a real, permanent solution that recognizes the positive impact Dreamers have in our communities. And as I said last week, that solution must come from Congress.
Immigration is a complex issue, but I believe we have a real opportunity for bipartisan solutions and compromise on issues including border security, high-skilled immigration, and a path forward for our dreamer populations
Last week, Utah’s Rep. Chris Stewart called DACA a “good-intentioned” program, yet said its creation by then President Barack Obama was unconstitutional. The authority to create programs like DACA “clearly lies within the purviews of Congress,” he said.
Sen. Mike Lee shared that sentiment in his own statement Tuesday.
“DACA was an illegal abuse of executive power, and it’s important to reaffirm that the president cannot unilaterally rewrite the law,” Lee said. “Today’s decision puts the ball in Congress’ court to address the problem of the approximately three-quarter million DACA participants, who originally came to the country as children. A balance between compassion and deterring future illegal immigration can be found.”
Hispanic members of the Utah Legislature sent a letter to the Utah congressional delegation asking it to protect those enrolled in the DACA program.
We call upon you, as elected federal representatives of this state, to take immediate action and protect the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). These young men and women — known as Dreamers — were brought to this country as children. Many of them know no other home but this country. They grew up here, they’ve gone to school here, many have served our nation in the military, and they deserve a chance to build lives in this great nation; to do what so many immigrants have done throughout our history: to make America even greater.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City; Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City; Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City; and Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, each signed the letter.
The letter can be read in its entirety here.
Trump, in a statement, said the change would be “a gradual process, not a sudden phase out.”
“Thus,” he said, “in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”
He does not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents, but said, “we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of law” and “young Americans have dreams, too.”
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio appealed to the White House for more clarity about what Trump is willing to sign.
“Congress now has less than six months to deal with this the right way, through the legislative process,” he said, adding, “We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.”
To target hopeful young strivers who grew up here is wrong, because they’ve done nothing wrong. My statement: https://t.co/TCxZdld7L4
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 5, 2017
Among those who criticized Trump’s decision to end DACA was Obama who took to Facebook. An excerpt from his Facebook post is featured below.
… My administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes also commented, issuing a statement Monday in which he said it would be “inhumane” of Congress not to find a solution for the Dreamers, many of whom have only known the United States as their home.
He said in part:
It is unconscionable to deport a young person who came to this country as a child or even infant without any choice of their own. These kids are our kids too. They grew up next door to you and me, played on the Little League teams we coached, went to school with our children, worked in local businesses, and by and large, they are leading productive lives contributing to our economy and the strength of America.
These children grew up believing they are American and so many of them have lived lives of which America can be proud. Rather than deporting those in whom America has already invested a great deal of resources, I urge Congress to pass legislation that provides a workable path forward so these young people can prove their ongoing commitment to this country and benefit all of us with their talents and skills. This can be done as we strengthen borders, security, and the economic viability of America.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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