WASHINGTON — Faced with the reality of being the final arbiter on what ultimately happens to some 800,000 beneficiaries under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, lawmakers in both parties began offering suggestions of action that can be taken within the next six months.
“The president’s announcement does not revoke permits immediately, and it is important that those affected have clarity on how this interim period will be carried out. At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the administration would “wind down” the program covering qualified immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
The “wind down” gives Congress a chance to step in and pass legislation to address the legal status of these immigrants, as lawmakers have failed to do for many years in trying to pass the DREAM Act.
“Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years,” Ryan said. “It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) charged that “most Americans know how heartless the DACA decision is; ripping apart families and telling people who have worked hard to become Americans for years that they have to leave the country.”
“But we often forget how vital these hardworking people and their contributions are to our economy and to tens of thousands of businesses who will be hurt if the administration’s order stands,” Schumer said. “The human and economic toll of rescinding DACA will be far reaching and Democrats will do everything we can to prevent President Trump’s terribly wrong order from becoming reality.”
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has offered an amendment to defund any government action to deport DACA recipients, said the president’s decision is “a cruel and arbitrary attack on DREAMers, designed to placate a narrow constituency and erase the legacy of his predecessor.”
“Brought across the border by their families when they were only children, these young people have grown up in America, gone to school in America, and made plans for their futures in America. The president would throw that all away,” he added. “…Today, the president proved all his critics right: he lacks any sense of empathy, any devotion to a cause greater than himself.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the announcement “signals a dark day in our nation’s history… this issue ought to transcend party, and it challenges us to do right by our history and our future.”
One of the GOP co-sponsors of Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Colo.) BRIDGE Act to extend DACA by three years, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), stressed that “we are a caring, compassionate people and we in Congress must work toward a long-term immigration solution that is fair, respects the dignity of families, and allows all individuals to pursue the American dream.”
“Children who were brought here by no fault of their own see America as their country and their home,” Reichert said. “They are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, spouses, and honored members of the military willing to sacrifice their life for our freedom. Punishing these individuals who have contributed so much to our communities and for a crime they did not commit is not in the American DNA.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba at age 7, called the decision “heartbreaking, reckless and wrong,” and called on colleagues to vote on something “to help DREAMers achieve permanence and certainty” — like the DREAM Act she introduced with Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.).
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said DACA was “well-intentioned,” but exceeded President Obama’s constitutional authority. “This president now has the chance to work with Congress towards finding a solution to this issue where his predecessor failed,” Cornyn added. “These children who were brought here illegally through no fault of their own continue to make positive contributions to Texas and the nation, and it’s important for us to achieve a long-term resolution.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) emphasized that the White House must “clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign,” as “we have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign.” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump aren’t on speaking terms right now. McConnell simply said in a statement, “This Congress will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he believes “a balance between compassion and deterring future illegal immigration can be found.”