President Donald Trump defended his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, saying in a statement on Tuesday that he believed the program that shields undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to be unconstitutional.
“As president, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America,” Trump said, in a statement, of his decision to end the program, created in 2012 by President Barack Obama. “At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
Trump described his decision to end DACA as a “gradual process, not a sudden phase out.”
“Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act,” Trump said.
And while Trump said he wants Congress to pass immigration reform in order to “resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion,” his statement suggested he may provide obstacles for Congress to get there.
His statement mischaracterized DACA as an “amnesty-first approach,” despite the fact that the program does not provide a pathway to citizenship for recipients. DACA merely allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 the ability to live and work in the U.S., assuming they do not have criminal records and can prove that they are either working, in school or serving in the military. DACA looks a lot like the DREAM Act, legislation first introduced in Congress back in 2001 that failed to pass Congress.
“The temporary implementation of DACA by the Obama administration, after Congress repeatedly rejected this amnesty-first approach, also helped spur a humanitarian crisis — the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America including, in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country, such as MS-13,” Trump said in his statement.
Trump went on to say that any immigration reform Congress passes must put American citizens first, saying their “highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families.”
“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Trump said. “We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling and forgotten Americans.”
“It is now time for Congress to act!” Trump said.