Trump Cancels DACA, Impacting Tens of Thousands of Students and Teachers
President Donald Trump will end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era program that gives protection to an estimated 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the order to end DACA Tuesday morning at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The decision leaves the undocumented residents, an undetermined number of whom work and learn in the nation's K-12 schools, in a state of limbo. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates 250,000 school-age children have become DACA-eligible since President Barack Obama began the program in 2012.
The Trump administration's decision could also affect the lives of children born in the United States. Millions of students in the nation's public and private schools are the children of undocumented immigrants, the Washington-based Pew Research Center estimates.
The announcement drew widespread condemnation from K-12 leaders and education associations from across the country, from Washington and New York to Los Angeles and Denver.
"The mission of public schools is to create opportunity—not for some children, but for all. The public-school system has not always been true to that dream, but it is striving to meet the needs of those dreamers now. For urban public schools, whose classrooms are filled with students from all over the world, our mission is not to reflect or perpetuate the walls that others would build. Our job is to tear them down, to educate future generations of informed, engaged citizens." said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents more than 60 of the nation's largest urban public school systems.
Students in one of those districts, the Denver Public Schools, walked out of classes Tuesday to protest the decision.
Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Michelle King, and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., the CEO of The Education Trust, and Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan group of district and state-level school leaders, also weighed in.
"We are deeply troubled by the Trump Administration's decision to cease protections for the law-abiding young people known as "Dreamers,"' Chiefs for Change officials wrote in response to the announcement.
"This move by the Administration heightens the urgency for Congress to take action to protect Dreamers in the form of common-sense immigration reform. Pushing these young people into the shadows will hurt our schools and communities."
The Trump administration will begin a "wind-down" of the DACA program, allowing Congress time to find a legislative solution to address the status of the so-called Dreamers, the young undocumented people who benefit from the program.
Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
The House and Senate now have until March 5 to pass an immigration reform bill, something they've tried and failed to do for more than a decade.
In a statement issued by the White House on Tuesday, President Trump wrote that the federal government will honor all existing DACA permits until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Applications already in the pipeline will be processed and DACA recipients whose eligibility expires between now and March 5 have until Oct. 5 to apply for renewal.
However, Trump's decision slams the door on DACA-eligible who haven't yet applied. A Department of Homeland Security memo issued Tuesday indicates all new applications for DACA protection will be rejected. Here's a link to a Homeland Security fact sheet explaining the full details of the DACA phase-out.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) praised Trump's move.
"The winding down period announced today will not only give DACA recipients time to get their affairs in order, but also gives Congress a unique opportunity to reengage in the immigration debate," the organization said in a statement.
FAIR supports a merit-based immigration system and construction of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Citing its ties to white supremacist groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the organization a "hate group."
While on the campaign trail, Trump promised to repeal DACA—which offers a two-year deportation stay to young undocumented immigrants who can prove they meet a number of criteria —including that they came to the U.S. before age 16, have lived here for at least five years continuously, attend or graduated from high school or college, and have no criminal convictions.
"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 issued Tuesday.
"Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too. Being in government means setting priorities. Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families."
Trump's decision comes on the day that Republican attorneys general in nine states planned to file suit against the federal government if the president did not end the program. It was not immediately clear if they still look to sue the White House.
"Acting on tainted and biased 'legal' advice, Donald Trump caved to the overstated demands of the Texas attorney general and a dwindling number of other states," said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. "The fecklessness of the Trump White House and the Sessions Justice Department now endangers countless families, employers, and communities across the country.
Attorneys general in New York and Washington state have announced plans to file a countersuit in an effort to stop the Trump administration from ending DACA.
Here's a copy of Trump's statement:
Photo Credit: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is being rescinded. "This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them," said Sessions. --Susan Walsh/AP