Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that President Donald Trump will discontinue the Obama administration's Deferred Action Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which had shielded young undocumented immigrants who had been brought to U.S. by their parents from deportation. Enrollees in the program are also known as "Dreamers."
Sessions announced during a Sept. 5 press conference that Trump would rescind former President Barack Obama's executive action that created DACA and phase out the program over the course of six months until March 2018, The Hill reports.
"The program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded," Sessions stated.
The attorney general added that the Trump administration would "begin an orderly, lawful wind down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program."
"This will enable [Department of Homeland Security] to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act -- should it so choose. We firmly believe this is the responsible path," said Sessions.
In 2012, Obama created DACA through an executive order, allowing for undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. after June 2007 and when they were under 16-years-old to apply for a two-year work permit and protections from deportation. If DACA applicants passed a background check and paid a fee, they were granted the ability to obtain a driver's license, enroll in college and find lawful employment. The program did not give them a path to citizenship, according to CNN.
As of March 31, more than 780,000 people had enrolled in DACA since its implementation.
Trump pledged on the campaign trail to rescind Obama's executive action, but asserted after assuming office that he did not want to make Dreamers vulnerable to deportation. On Apr. 21, the president told The Associated Press that Dreamers could "rest easy."
Trump added that his administration was "not after the dreamers," rather, they "are after the criminals."
On June 29, Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other state attorneys general issued a letter warning the Trump administration that they would continue a federal lawsuit against DACA if Trump did not end the program. They gave the administration until Sept. 5 to make a decision on the matter, according to the Washington Examiner.
Trump's plan to phase out DACA over six months reportedly would provide Congress with a timeframe to reinstall the program through legislation. Dreamers whose working permits will lapse within the next six months will have the opportunity to renew their enrollment before the program ends.
Following Session's announcement, Trump took to social media to urge Congress to move on the matter.
"Congress, get ready to do your job -- DACA!" Trump tweeted out on Sept. 5.
The House Majority Leader, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, released a statement indicating that a DACA bill would be a priority going forward.
"It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the President's leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country," said Ryan.
If the Republican-majority Congress is unable to pass legislation before DACA's end, Dreamers will be vulnerable to removal from college, from their jobs or even the country, even though Sessions asserted that they would not be a priority for removal. DACA enrollees had to turn over their information to the federal government to receive protections, meaning that immigration agents could easily find them if they were given access to those records.
GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona released a statement blasting Trump's decision to rescind the DACA program.
"I strongly believe that children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should not be forced to return to a country they do not know," McCain said.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California took to social media to condemn the action.
"Donald Trump again shows that no child is too young or vulnerable, no step is too low, and why he is the worst President in modern history," Schiff tweeted out.
Sources: Adam Schiff/Twitter, AP, CNN, Donald J. Trump/Twitter, The Hill, Washington Examiner / Featured Image: Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Marshals via Office of Public Affairs/Flickr / Embedded Images: Jetta Disco/U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Flickr, Gage Skidmore/Flickr