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Trump rescinds DACA, leaving undocumented youth unshielded

September 5, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
The Trump administration ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented youth from deportation. The announcement places a new pressure on Congress to add immigration reform to their fall legislative docket. John Yang reports on the decision and the reaction from so-called “dreamers,” who are taking to the street to protest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s been widely expected, and now it’s confirmed: President Trump is demolishing a pillar of the Obama administration’s immigration policy.

Today’s announcement confirmed the end of a program shielding many young immigrants from deportation.

John Yang begins our coverage.

JOHN YANG: Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the decision to cancel the program was all about the rule of law.

JEFF SESSIONS, Attorney General: The compassionate thing is to end the lawlessness, enforce our laws, and if Congress chooses to make changes in those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our founders.

JOHN YANG: Across the country, young undocumented immigrants who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, protested. To them, it was personal.

WOMAN: We don’t know what that means for our future. But I do know that we are here right now because we are outraged and that, even without DACA, we won’t go back into the shadows.

JOHN YANG: In a written statement, President Trump sympathized with both sides: “My highest duty is to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents. DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity or are members of a gang.”

Later, the president told reporters he wants to see legislation to continue the policy.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have a love for these people, and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.

JOHN YANG: DACA protects about 790,000 people aged 15 to 36 who illegally entered the United States as children. It allows them to remain in the country and to get work permits. It will be phased out, so most beneficiaries won’t lose their status for six months.

Expiring work permits can be renewed for an additional two years. The looming deadline puts pressure on Congress to act on an issue that has frustrated lawmakers for years. Supporters of the policy say they will need the direct involvement of the president.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: My challenge is to the president is that you talk so glowingly about these, kids help us. Help us in the House. Help us in the Senate. I think you’re a good man. Get involved personally. Work the phones. Try to find a consensus here.

FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let’s be clear. This is not amnesty.

JOHN YANG: President Barack Obama established the policy in 2012 through executive action after congressional attempts to pass it failed.

Today, Mr. Obama called the president’s decision “contrary to our spirit and to common sense.”

During the campaign, candidate Donald Trump vowed to overturn DACA and another Obama program that protected undocumented immigrants whose children were U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants.

JOHN YANG: Once in the White House, President Trump’s stance softened.

Listen to this exchange with the “NewsHour”‘s Lisa Desjardins:

LISA DESJARDINS: On the DACA program for immigration, what is your plan? Do you plan to continue that program or to end it?

DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject to me, I will tell you.

JOHN YANG: In June, Mr. Trump rescinded the program covering parents, already blocked by a deadlocked Supreme Court, but let DACA remain while he studied the issue.

His answer, it seems, is that it’s up to Congress to fix this problem.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will dig deeper into the DACA program after the news summary.