By Rhina Guidos
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Hours after the Trump administration announced on Sept. 5 an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the president seemed to backtrack, just a bit, by saying that if Congress can’t find a legislative solution to legalize the program’s 800,000 beneficiaries in six months, he might step in.
“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” President Donald Trump tweeted in the evening, even after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said using executive action in such as manner, as then-President Barack Obama had done, was “unconstitutional.”
Obama established DACA in 2012 by executive action after Congress could not agree on legislation that would have legalized youth brought to the U.S. as children.
After DACA was rescinded, condemnation quickly followed. Javier Palomarez, the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said on a television show shortly after the decision was announced that he was resigning from the president’s diversity coalition because of its move to end DACA. The chamber of commerce then followed up with a statement saying that it “vehemently” opposed the president’s “inhumane and economically harmful decision to terminate DACA.”
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia announced Sept. 6 that they were filing lawsuits against the administration to stop it from ending the program.
Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, seemed optimistic and said he had “hope” that Congress could come to an agreement. Congress has not been able to agree on immigration legislation in more than a decade.
At a demonstration outside the White House on Sept. 5, DACA recipient Greisa Martinez, who is advocacy director at United We Dream, a national immigrant youth led organization, said DACA beneficiaries will try to press for a legislative solution. However, she and other beneficiaries don’t want to be part of political deals that will put other migrants at risk, she said. In other words, migrant youth will oppose any deals that attempt to use them as political pawns and oppose any legislation that will in turn put their parents or families at risk, she said.
The New York-based Center for Migration Studies said in a Sept. 5 statement by executive director Donald Kerwin that “Congress should act swiftly to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act, which was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Although the 2017 version is the latest move by Congress to attempt at bipartisan legislation to help the undocumented youth, the White House told news agency McClatchy in July that the president wouldn’t sign the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, legislation so it’s hard to tell what legislative solutions the president is seeking.
Kerwin also took issue with what he called the attorney general’s “demonstrably false claims and half-truths” when he announced why the administration was rescinding the program. The DACA program did not cause the flight of large numbers of unaccompanied minors to the United States, Kerwin said. That was a result of the violence from the Northern Triangle states of Central America, which includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
DACA recipients also have not deprived hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens of jobs, Kerwin said.
“Sessions also repeatedly invoked the phrase ‘illegal aliens’ to describe legally present young persons who are American in everything but status,” Kerwin said.