President Donald Trump kept one of his campaign promises this week, rescinding Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), dismantling the program that protected young undocumented immigrants numbering close to 800,000, evoking fears that they may soon face deportation to native countries that hold few memories for them.
The decision, announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, indicates that DACA will officially end in six months. And unless Congress comes to some agreement, the future appears grim for these youth, often referred to as “Dreamers” — youth who Trump once promised he’d take care of them and their interests.
Criticism of Trump’s action has been swift including several comments from leaders here in the District as well as student walkouts in Colorado, and protests both outside of the White House and Trump Tower in New York City.
“Last month, I joined leaders from around the country in urging President Trump to preserve DACA, a program that has opened thousands of doors of opportunity for young people who consider the U.S. home and who have done everything our country has asked of them,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“DACA has allowed young people — many who came to the U.S. as very young children and knew no other home — to get jobs, go to school, serve in the military and become active members of their communities. Washington, D.C. will continue to stand with our nearly 800 Dreamers and the thousands of immigrants who live in the District … our support will be unwavering,” she said.
The District’s attorney general, Karl A. Racine, shared similar views, recently joining his counterparts from 19 states, sending a letter to the president urging him to maintain and defend DACA.
The announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 5, came on the deadline set by 10 state attorneys general who promised legal action if the president did not agree to dismantle DACA by that date. Trump’s decision smacked in the faces of Democrats and even some members of the Republican Party including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who believes that Congress should be allowed to pass a nonpartisan bill.
What happens over the next six months remains unclear, but some GOP members have said they’d like to offer a more conservative version of the Dream Act, called the Recognizing America’s Children Act, that would allow a path to citizenship for a smaller group of Dreamers — focusing more on skills and education and far less on families.
Before leaving office, Obama asked Trump, both in public and private forums, to allow DACA, the program he initiated in 2012 under executive order, to remain in place. In addition, Obama, who has been relatively quiet since the end of his eight-year term, said during his final press conference, that he would speak out if Trump set his sights on the Dreamers.
True to his word, Obama released the following statement:
“Now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future.
“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 kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people — and who we want to be. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate or lighten anyone’s taxes or raise anybody’s wages. The action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision and a moral question.”
Meanwhile, CNN political commentator Van Jones, appearing with a panel Tuesday night on CNN news anchor Don Lemon’s nightly show, said, “It’s wrong to terrorize these children.”
Another member of that panel, Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, expressed harsh criticism of Trump’s decision.
“He wants to rule with fear and intimidation — not with facts and hard data,” Palomarez said. “These youths were vetted three times and have done nothing wrong. They willingly gave their personal information to the government. Now, they have been betrayed.”