President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling the program an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to replace it with legislation before it begins phasing out on March 5, 2018.
“I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” Mr. Trump said in a written statement. “But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
The statement was released shortly after Mr. Trump, who had called the issue a personal dilemma, dispatched Attorney General Jeff Sessions to announce that the government will no longer accept new applications from undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Administration officials said the roughly 800,000 current beneficiaries of the program — brought to the United States illegally as children — will not be immediately affected by what they called an “orderly wind-down” of former President Barack Obama’s policy.
“Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class, and economic fairness for all Americans,” Mr. Trump said, calling the DACA program an “amnesty-first approach.”
“Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and job seekers,” the president added.
The announcement prompted an outcry, particularly from Democrats and immigration advocacy groups. Mr. Obama, who had pledged to speak out should Mr. Trump end the program, said that the president had singled out young strivers for punishment they did not deserve.
“To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong,” Mr. Obama said on Facebook. “It is self-defeating — because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.”
He urged Congress to pass a bill to protect those who were shielded from deportation by the program.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump would support legislation to protect those young immigrants, as long as Congress passes it as part of a broader immigration overhaul to strengthen the border, protect American jobs and enhance enforcement.
“The president wants to see responsible immigration reform, and he wants that to be part of it,” Ms. Sanders said, referring to protections for the young immigrants. “Something needs to be done. We want to be part of it.”
But Ms. Sanders would not say whether the president would support a stand-alone bill that only addresses protection for the young immigrants. And she declined to say what Mr. Trump might do if Congress fails to act by the time the DACA recipients start losing their work permits and deportation protection next March.
NEW YORK TIMES
MICHAEL D. SHEAR and JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS