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White House: DACA Program Not Eliminated Yet, But Not Necessarily Protected

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WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer emphasized today that the Department of Homeland Security immigration enforcement memos putting President Trump’s executive order into action do not eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — for now.

DACA was put into place by President Obama after Congress failed to pass “DREAMer” legislation to allow some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children to apply for legal status.

In an August speech on the campaign trail in Arizona, Trump vowed to “immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.”

Asked in a press conference last week about whether he would continue DACA, Trump replied, “We’re going to show great heart.”

“DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids,” he said. “In many cases, not in all cases. And some of the cases, having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way — it’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject.”

The president added that he has “to deal with a lot of politicians, don’t forget, and I have to convince them that what I’m saying is right.”

“But the DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and you know, the law is rough.”

Spicer told reporters today that Trump “has made clear when you have 12, 14, 15 million people in the country illegally, that there has to be a system of priority, and right now, ICE’s priority is going to make sure that we focus on first and foremost” on what was outlined in the order, including people who have been convicted of a crime, arrested or are suspected of committing an action that constitutes a criminal act.

DACA beneficiaries aren’t currently a priority “unless someone who fits under that program …fits into the subcategory” of stated ICE priorities.

“Remember, everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time. That is consistent with every country, not just ours. If you’re in this country in an illegal manner, that obviously — that there’s a provision that could ensure that you’d be removed,” Spicer said.

“But the priority that the president has laid forward, and the priority that ICE is putting forward through DHS’ guidance is to make sure that the people who have committed a crime or pose a threat to our public are the priority of their efforts, first and foremost.”

Pressed further on the issue, Spicer said DACA will not necessarily remain in place in the future.

“What it means is that this particular enforcement is tailored to what I’ve been referencing over and over again, that what we’re talking about today is the implementation of those two executive orders, one specifically that’s tasking the agencies under DHS to address a very specific problem of the million or so, plus-or-minus people that they have identified, that they have been adjudicated with having — with already having gone through the process to be adjudicated and taken out of the country,” he said, noting again “this order does not address” the fate of DACA.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) countered that “no matter how much they deny it, it is clear that the White House is setting in motion their mass deportation plan, directing immigration agents to round up and quickly deport anyone who is undocumented.”

“We can all agree that violent criminals should be removed, but it is outrageous and unacceptable for ICE to target or arrest innocent immigrant families contributing to our nation and working to achieve the American Dream,” Schumer said in a statement. “This is a waste of limited resources, disrupts our economy, does nothing to keep us safe, and makes everyone a target – causing panic within the immigrant community.”

DHS Secretary John Kelly issued two implementation memos on President Trump’s immigration executive orders Monday, stressing that “with extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement.”

“All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” the department said in a fact sheet. “…U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will release aliens from custody only under limited circumstances, such as when removing them from the country, when an alien obtains an order granting relief by statute, when it is determined that the alien is a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, refugee, or asylee, or that the alien holds another protected status, when an arriving alien has been found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture and the alien satisfactorily establishes his identity and that he is not a security or flight risk, or when otherwise required to do so by statute or order by a competent judicial or administrative authority.”