WASHINGTON – Forty-two Senate Democrats last week asked that President Trump defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program amid the threat of lawsuits from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other states.
Established in 2012 by the Obama administration, DACA temporarily shields from deportation immigrant students who arrived in the U.S. as children. Program participants must register with the government, pay an application fee and pass criminal and national-security background checks. Nearly 800,000 immigrants have received DACA permits.
Trump, despite campaign promises to eliminate DACA on his first day in office, has so far allowed DACA permit renewals and the issuance of new permits. His daughter Ivanka Trump and Director of the Economic Council Gary Cohn are among those in the White House who have protested the program’s elimination. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the Trump administration has been issuing about 200 DACA permits a day.
Paxton in late June threatened to sue the administration if it failed to uphold its promise, rescind President Obama’s memo that established DACA and stop allowing renewals and new permits.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined 40 other Democrats in signing a letter to Trump on Thursday citing a Cato Institute study that found deportation of DACA holders would cost more than $60 billion and would result in $280 billion in lost economic growth over the next 10 years.
Durbin listed a number of benefits from the DACA program, noting that many participants have graduated college, started businesses and have given back to local communities in other ways.
“The most recent threat to the DACA program has left hundreds of thousands of DREAMers anxious and concerned about the future,” Durbin continued. “I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to protect DREAMers and urge him to order his Attorney General to use all legal options to defend the DACA program so these young people can continue contributing to the country they love.”
Durbin and lawmakers also cited a number of comments from the president offering a positive outlook for the future of DACA. In April, Trump said that DREAMers should rest easy, though Attorney General Jeff Sessions has welcomed the threat of lawsuit. Sessions has countered that the bottom line is illegal immigrants should be deported.
Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, said in an interview Monday that it’s entirely possible the administration caves when the lawsuit is filed in September.
“That could be what they were hoping for all along because they’re worried about the PR fallout of taking away work permits from close to 800,000 people,” he said. “That would make for an orgy of sob stories, which is why I get their reluctance.”
Krikorian also called on Democrats to “stop whining” and instead appeal to their colleagues in passing the DREAM Act. The legislative approach to solidifying DACA failed in 2010, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) brought the DREAM Act to a vote during the lame-duck session.
Krikorian said that DACA is no longer just an Obama program, as the Trump administration has continued issuing new permits.
“New illegal aliens are being given work permits every day under this program,” he said. “There’s no excuse for that.”
He added that he’s in favor of legalizing DACA workers, but it should be done so through legislation and include trade-offs like cutting legal immigration elsewhere.
“If they’re illegal immigrants, they’re illegal, they can’t work. If (Democrats) want them to work, pass legislation and give them green cards,” he said.
Schumer said in a statement that DACA permit holders – which include valedictorians, honor students, college graduates, engineers, soldiers and teachers – embody “everything that America should stand for.”