Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that shielded young undocumented immigrants from deportation, will end.
Sessions said there will be an unspecified “wind down period,” which is meant to give Congress some time to come up with a potential replacement for the program. Replacement legislation is unlikely to pass without additional immigration enforcement provisions, such as increased border security or ways to crack down on sanctuary cities.
Previous reports said there would be a six-month delay, but Sessions did not mention a specific time period during his remarks.
As a candidate, Trump promised to end the program, commonly called DACA, as part of his stance on immigration. Since his inauguration, however, he has signaled a willingness to keep at least portions of it.
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In an interview with the Associated Press in April, Trump said young immigrants, often referred to as Dreamers, should “rest easy” and that his administration is “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.”
Since then, the White House had left the policy in place, angering some in Trump’s base. Ten states, all of whom went to Trump in the 2016 election, promised to sue the federal government over the program, unless Trump ended it by Tuesday.
Trump’s decision will affect more than 750,000 young people who have obtained work permits through DACA to either study or hold a job. The permits last two years and were renewable. Under Trump’s new plan, once a Dreamer’s work permit expires, that person will be eligible for deportation, effectively phasing out the program by 2019.
Former President Barack Obama issued a statement on Trump’s decision hours later, calling it “cruel.”
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question,” Obama wrote in a lengthy Facebook status. “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”