At the behest of President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the administration would no longer support the Obama-era program known as DACA. The program, signed by executive order by the former president in 2012, aimed to give 800,000 illegal immigrants a free pass from fears of deportation. Already problematic at that level, the order enraged constitutional conservatives for going a step further, conferring benefits such as work permits to applicants in defiance of laws set down by Congress. Texas state lawyers had threatened to sue the administration if the program was not ended by September 5, and most legal analysts expected them to succeed. By ending the program early, Trump avoids the unenviable (and untenable) optics of having to defend in court a program he regularly promised to end on the campaign trail.
Trump, who is said to be of two minds on the DREAMers who benefit from the order, gave Congress a small window of opportunity to come up with legislation that permanently protects those currently shielded from deportation. The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying new applications for DACA would no longer be accepted. However, those already in the program can continue using their work permits until they expire; any whose permits expire by March 5, 2018 can apply for a renewal as long as they do so by October 5.
The compromise is intended to take some of the political heat off the decision in an atmosphere where even many in the Republican leadership are bashing Trump for cutting the protections. In his own statement, President Trump said that immigration authorities would not prioritize DREAMers for deportation.
“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged,” Trump said. “We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators. I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
Now the ball is in Congress’s court, and it remains to be seen if Republicans are as energized to protect the DREAMers as they seem in social media posts and radio interviews. No less than 18 congressional Republicans have come out against the president’s decision; will they, however, be willing to put their name on legislation that can only be termed amnesty? We’ll see. We will see.