President Donald Trump on Tuesday issued a lengthy statement defending his decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields roughly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
In the statement, Trump argued that DACA, implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama, was “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”
Trump had faced a lawsuit filed by by officials from 10 Republican states if he did not announce he would end DACA by September 5. On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that DACA would be phased out over a six-month period, allowing Congress time to enact a legislative solution instead.
“Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first,” his statement said.
The statement also laid out the timeline for the program’s termination, declaring no new applications for work permits will be accepted, but existing ones will be honored and renewal applications for permits facing “near-term expiration” will be processed.
“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out,” the statement said. “Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”
The statement also addressed some critics’ concerns that rescinding DACA would leave its recipients vulnerable to deportation, declaring that “DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged. We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators,” the statement said.
In the statement, Trump acknowledged a common argument in defence of DACA — that its recipients were brought to the US illegally at young ages, through no fault of their own, and in many cases grew up in the US knowing no other home country.
“I do not favour punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” the statement said. “But we must also recognise that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
He went on to argue that Washington, DC’s “failure” to enforce federal immigration law led to lower wages and higher unemployment among American workers, as well as “burdens” on the education and healthcare systems, and the entry of drugs and “criminal cartels.”
“Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system,” the statement said. “Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.”
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