The Trump Administration announced this morning that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted protection from deportation and gave work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference that the Obama-era policy was implemented unilaterally after Congress rejected similar legislation to extend similar benefits to undocumented immigrants.
“The executive branch through DACA deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” Sessions said at the press conference.
The announcement came after President Donald Trump deliberated for months on whether to gut the program. Trump gave Congress a six-month window to act on the decision, ultimately putting the often-called “Dreamers’” fate in the hands of Congress, according to Politico.
“ … I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act,” Trump said in a statement in regard to the DACA decision.
“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,” Trump said in the statement.
Nearly 800,000 immigrants are currently benefiting from the DACA program, according to Politico. In order to qualify and apply for the program, immigrants must have, among other requirements, entered the U.S before their 16th birthday and were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. Once a recipient of DACA, immigrants are shielded from deportation and granted a work permit for two years, which is subject to renewal.
The announcement took Twitter by storm, with politicians like Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, condemning Trump’s decision and standing in solidarity with Dreamers.
“Trump’s cowardice is on full display today. His cruelty must not stand! #ProtectDREAMers,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.
“To #DACA youth across the country, I say this is not over. I stand with you and your families. You are valued,” Feinstein wrote on Twitter. “Congressional action is now the only way to protect DACA recipients. The #DreamAct deserves a vote as soon as possible. #DefendDACA.”
According to the Pew Research Center, California leads the nation with 223,000 in DACA recipients.
In the statement, Trump said that no new applications for work permits will be accepted and that the Department of Homeland Security will “begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, with 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,” Trump said in the statement.