WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday it’s up to Congress to ultimately decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.
He tweeted: “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”
President Trump was referring to former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S.
The Trump administration was expected to announce termination of the program — but only after giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution to protect the immigrants, sometimes known as “dreamers.”
“Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!” Trump added in a second, retweeted message. “The forgotten men & women will no longer be forgotten.”
President Trump has no announcement on his Tuesday schedule, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a harsh opponent of the program, scheduled a press briefing on the topic later Tuesday.
The president’s expected plan to take a hard line on young immigrants, unless Congress intervenes, threatens to expose deep divides among Republicans who have long struggled with the issue, with one conservative warning of a potential “civil war” within the party. The plan essentially hands a political hot potato to congressional Republicans, who have a long history of failing to act on immigration because of divisions in the party.
President Trump’s decision would come after a long and notably public deliberation. Despite campaigning as an immigration hard-liner, Trump has said he is sympathetic to the plight of the immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and in some cases have no memories of the countries they were born in.
But such an approach — essentially kicking the can down the road and letting Congress deal with it— is fraught with uncertainty and political perils that amount, according to one vocal opponent, to “Republican suicide.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of other Republicans urged Trump last week to hold off on scrapping DACA to give lawmakers time to come up with a legislative fix.
But Congress has repeatedly tried — and failed — to come together on immigration overhaul legislation, and it remains uncertain whether the House would succeed in passing anything on the divisive topic.
One bill addressing the issue that has received the most attention, introduced by Sens. Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million young people who arrived in the United States before they turned 18, passed security checks and met other criteria, including enrolling in college, joining the military or finding jobs.
It’s unclear, however, whether the president would throw his support behind that or any other existing legislation. He could encourage the writing of a new bill — tied, perhaps, to funding for his promised border wall or other concessions like a reduction in legal immigration levels.
But it’s unclear how much political capital the president would want to put on the line given his base’s strong opposition to illegal immigration, his campaign rhetoric blasting DACA as illegal “amnesty” and his reluctance to campaign hard for other priorities, like health care overhaul.