Two of President Donald Trump’s top administration officials provided vastly different statements in announcing his decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — known as DACA — in six months.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the move in front of cameras Tuesday morning, said DACA recipients were “mostly-adult illegal aliens” and that President Barack Obama’s executive order “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences” and “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
DACA shields from deportation and provides work permits to roughly 800,000 immigrants who came to the US as minors and are living in the country illegally.
Sessions additionally called for the US to “set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted,” struck a different tone than acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke in her statement on the rescinding of the policy.
In a sense, Sessions provided what a top Breitbart reporter termed as “going full Breitbart” in his announcement, while Duke provided a response aimed to be more sympathetic to DACA recipients.
Duke said the administration had only two options when it decided to end the program: “Wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. The Administration choose the least disruptive option.”
Pointing to the judiciary, Duke was highlighting the handful of state attorneys general who were currently engaged in a legal effort to shut down the program through the courts.
Duke said she was “very aware of the consequences of this action,” adding that she sympathizes “with the DACA recipients whose futures may now be less certain.”
“But I am also frustrated on their behalf,” she said. “DACA was never more than deferred action — a bureaucratic delay — that never promised the rights of citizenship or legal status in this country. The program did not grant recipients a future, it was instead only a temporary delay until a day of likely expiration. And for that reason, DACA was fundamentally a lie.”
Obama “had genuine intentions for DACA, and was clearly frustrated by his inability to manoeuvre through the legislative process,” she continued. “But a secretarial memo — even if intended to be temporary — is not a substitute for a law passed by Congress and signed by the president.”
She called on Congress to pass new legislation is it believes “current laws do not reflect our country’s values,” and said Homeland Security “would be glad” to work with Congress to help them consider a solution.
“There is much wrong with our current immigration system — not just DACA — and this is an opportunity to make it better, fairer, and more beneficial for the nation,” she said. “What this decision makes clear is that we are overdue for real answers. No more stopgap measures, no more temporary options, and no more kicking the tough decisions down the road in the hope they become too painful to ignore for someone else.”
“We need to do this the right way,” she continued. “And we need to do this now.”
In a statement released shortly after Sessions delivered his address, Trump used language that was more similar to Sessions’ statement than Duke’s.
The president chose to focus on how DACA recipients were taking jobs away from Americans and called for a similar limit on immigration that his attorney general did.
He called for a solution that “puts the hardworking citizens of our country first.”
“The decades-long failure of Washington, DC, to enforce federal immigration law has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers,” Trump said. “Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system. Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.”
Trump called for “the DACA issue” to be solves “with heart and compassion” while “ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve.”
“We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans,” he continued. “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too. Being in government means setting priorities. Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families. It is now time for Congress to act!”
Read Sessions’ full statement:
Good morning. I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama Administration is being rescinded.
The DACA program was implemented in 2012 and essentially provided a legal status for recipients for a renewable two-year term, work authorization and other benefits, including participation in the social security program, to 800,000 mostly-adult illegal aliens.
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.
In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorise on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.
The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, 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.
We inherited from our Founders — and have advanced — an unsurpassed legal heritage, which is the foundation of our freedom, safety, and prosperity.
As the Attorney General, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the Constitutional order is upheld.
No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law. Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed.
Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering.
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.
Therefore, the nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all can not be accepted.
This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.
It is with these principles and duties in mind, and in light of imminent litigation, that we reviewed the Obama Administration’s DACA policy.
Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognised with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.
The Fifth Circuit specifically concluded that DACA had not been implemented in a fashion that allowed sufficient discretion, and that DAPA was “foreclosed by Congress’s careful plan.”
In other words, it was inconsistent with the Constitution’s separation of powers. That decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court by an equally divided vote.
If we were to keep the Obama Administration’s executive amnesty policy, the likeliest outcome is that it would be enjoined just as was DAPA. The Department of Justice has advised the President and the Department of Homeland Security that DHS should begin an orderly, lawful wind down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorised this program.
Acting Secretary Duke has chosen, appropriately, to initiate a wind down process. This will enable DHS to conduct an orderly change and fulfil the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act — should it so choose. We firmly believe this is the responsible path.
Simply put, if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and the rule of law in America, the Department of Justice cannot defend this type of overreach.
George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was clear about the enormous constitutional infirmities raised by these policies.
He said: “In ordering this blanket exception, President Obama was nullifying part of a law that he simply disagreed with.….If a president can claim sweeping discretion to suspend key federal laws, the entire legislative process becomes little more than a pretense…The circumvention of the legislative process not only undermines the authority of this branch but destabilizes the tripartite system as a whole.”
Ending the previous Administration’s disrespect for the legislative process is an important first step. All immigration policies should serve the interests of the people of the United States — lawful immigrant and native born alike.
Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people. Our nation is comprised of good and decent people who want their government’s leaders to fulfil their promises and advance an immigration policy that serves the national interest.
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.
Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. 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.
That is what the President has promised to do and has delivered to the American people.
Under President Trump’s leadership, this administration has made great progress in the last few months toward establishing a lawful and constitutional immigration system. This makes us safer and more secure.
It will further economically the lives of millions who are struggling. And it will enable our country to more effectively teach new immigrants about our system of government and assimilate them to the cultural understandings that support it.
The substantial progress in reducing illegal immigration at our border seen in recent months is almost entirely the product of the leadership of President Trump and his inspired federal immigration officers. But the problem is not solved. And without more action, we could see illegality rise again rather than be eliminated.
As a candidate, and now in office, President Trump has offered specific ideas and legislative solutions that will protect American workers, increase wages and salaries, defend our national security, ensure the public safety, and increase the general well-being of the American people.
He has worked closely with many members of Congress, including in the introduction of the RAISE Act, which would produce enormous benefits for our country. This is how our democratic process works.
There are many powerful interest groups in this country and every one of them has a constitutional right to advocate their views and represent whomever they choose.
But the Department of Justice does not represent any narrow interest or any subset of the American people. We represent all of the American people and protect the integrity of our Constitution. That is our charge.
We at Department of Justice are proud and honored to work to advance this vision for America and to do our best each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people.
And read Duke’s full statement:
This Administration’s decision to terminate DACA was not taken lightly. The Department of Justice has carefully evaluated the program’s Constitutionality and determined it conflicts with our existing immigration laws. Given the Supreme Court’s decision on DAPA, they do not believe DACA is legally viable, and thus the program should be ended.
As a result of recent litigation, we were faced with two options: wind the program down in an orderly fashion that protects beneficiaries in the near-term while working with Congress to pass legislation; or allow the judiciary to potentially shut the program down completely and immediately. The Administration choose the least disruptive option.
I am very aware of the consequences of this action, and I sympathize with the DACA recipients whose futures may now be less certain. But I am also frustrated on their behalf. DACA was never more than deferred action — a bureaucratic delay — that never promised the rights of citizenship or legal status in this country. The program did not grant recipients a future, it was instead only a temporary delay until a day of likely expiration. And for that reason, DACA was fundamentally a lie.
I believe President Obama had genuine intentions for DACA, and was clearly frustrated by his inability to manoeuvre through the legislative process. But a Secretarial memo — even if intended to be temporary – is not a substitute for a law passed by Congress and signed by the President.
For several years before becoming the Acting Secretary, I taught civics to people who were going through the naturalization process. I taught them the principles of American democracy, like the three branches of government, the separation of powers, and how our system of checks and balances works.
I taught them that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land.
And I taught them the rule of law: How everyone in our country must follow the law, no matter who they are.
The DACA program violates those basic civics lessons that are fundamental to our country and our citizens.
It is a dangerous precedent to systematically ignore the law, regardless of one’s intent or purpose. It is also dangerous to encourage and reward illegal immigration.
We must find a better way. And we must do so within the Constitution of the United States.
If our current laws do not reflect our country’s values, then I urge Congress to use its Constitutional authority to write and pass legislation that does. I believe the President shares my confidence in the Congress.
DHS would be glad to provide Congress with data and information to help them consider the situation, and find a legislative solution. There is much wrong with our current immigration system — not just DACA — and this is an opportunity to make it better, fairer, and more beneficial for the nation.
What this decision makes clear is that we are overdue for real answers. No more stopgap measures, no more temporary options, and no more kicking the tough decisions down the road in the hope they become too painful to ignore for someone else.
We need to do this the right way. And we need to do this now.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.