President Trump’s rhetoric on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has softened since he won the 2016 election, but a group of states threatening to sue the administration over the program worries Dreamers. With the potential lawsuit, threatened by the attorney general of Texas and nine other states who say the program is illegal, the Trump administration could decline to defend the program.
The attorneys general opposed to DACA sent a memo to Trump at the end of June stating, “If, by September 5, 2017, the executive branch agrees to rescind the June 15, 2012, DACA memorandum and not to renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future, then the plaintiffs…will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit.” If on the other hand, the president doesn’t rescind DACA, the attorneys general say in the memo, they will add the complaint to an existing suit currently pending in the Southern District of Texas.
For 750,000 DACA beneficiaries– Dreamers– a lawsuit from the Republican-led states would likely mean the end of the program if the Trump Administration chooses not to defend it. The program gives amnesty to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
The fear surrounding the possible end of the program is based on conflicting messages on the topic telegraphed by President Trump. During the election campaign, then Candidate Trump promised, “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 5 million illegal immigrants.” In contrast, after the election, President Trump called Dreamers “incredible kids” and said, “Dreamers shouldn’t be very worried.”
Adding to the confusion, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly responded to news of the possible lawsuit by telling lawmakers that while he personally supports the DACA program, he can’t guarantee the administration will defend it if challenged.
The statement is particularly concerning for Dreamers as Attorney General Jeff Session, who heads the Department of Justice, is adamantly against DACA.
“The lack of clarity has sparked frustration from Dreamers as well as anti-illegal immigration activists, who are demanding Trump make good on his promised deportations, including an end to DACA,” The Los Angeles Times reports.
In comments responding to the possible lawsuit and the threat to DACA, President Trump continued the ambiguity by saying the decision as to how to move forward with DACA rests with him, not Attorney General Sessions.
“It’s a decision that I make, and it’s a decision that’s very very hard to make. I really understand the situation now,” Trump said. “I understand the situation very well. What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”