WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today the Trump administration’s plans to “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, with President Trump chiming in an hour later in a written statement saying he does “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,” the president’s statement added. “…There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will.”
At a Justice Department news conference, Sessions said DACA, which covers some 800,000 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and accepted into the program after meeting education/work requirements and passing security screening, “deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions.”
“The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs,” he said. “…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.”
Sessions stressed that the United States “cannot admit everyone who would like to come here,” and after legal review his team arrived at the “collective wisdom” that “the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision that was affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.” That was the unsuccessful effort by the Obama administration to give the parents of DACA recipients protected status.
“The Department of Justice has advised the president and the Department of Homeland Security that the Department of Homeland Security should begin an orderly, lawful wind-down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program. Acting Secretary [Elaine] Duke has chosen appropriately to initiate a wind-down process. This will enable the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act should it so choose,” he said. “We firmly believe this is the responsible path.”
The attorney general argued that “there’s nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration law” and “the compassionate thing to do is end the lawlessness, enforce our laws and if Congress chooses to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our founders, in a way that advances the interests of the American people.”
Sessions warned that “without more action” on illegal immigration “we could see illegality rise again rather than be eliminated,” despite a sustained drop in southern border crossings.
Trump’s statement said the “orderly transition” away from DACA would be “one that provides minimum disruption.”
“While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. This is 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,” he said.
“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged. We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators. I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
Trump added that “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.”
“…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. We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.”
DHS said Sessions sent a letter to Duke on Monday stating his position. Duke issued a memo today rescinding the June 15, 2012, memo that created DACA.
“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,” Duke said in a statement. “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. We chose the least disruptive option.”