Trump ends DACA; Markey says Congress will respond
Senator calls action ‘plain evil,’ Healey calls Sessions a liar
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION on Tuesday ordered an end to an executive branch program shielding young undocumented immigrants from deportation, prompting an outpouring of opposition from top officials in Massachusetts.
The Obama-era program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows minors who entered the country illegally and were raised primarily in the United States to receive a renewable, two-year exemption from deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the policy shift, said the program was being rescinded because it was an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law” and an unconstitutional exercise of executive authority that “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”
Sessions gave Congress six months to come up with a replacement program but said no new children would be accepted under the initiative in the meantime.
Attorney General Maura Healey called Sessions’s claim that the program was of questionable legality a lie. “Today, with cameras rolling, Jeff Sessions lied to the American people once again. Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump ignored voices across the political spectrum from across this country – clergy, professionals, business leaders – all desperately urging the administration to do the right thing,” Healey said an hour after the White House announcement on DACA. “At this point, my question to the US president and the attorney general is: Whose side are you on?”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, representatives from advocacy organizations (the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Irish International Immigrant Center), and two DACA recipients – one now a green card holder and working for state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz – joined Markey and Healey at a press conference at the Boston offices of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy alliance.
Gov. Charlie Baker, who recently came under fire from some Democrats for a bill setting out the terms of police cooperation with federal immigration officials (some critics called it a “deportation bill”), did not attend the press conference. The governor did release a separate statement on the White House’s decision.
“President Trump made the wrong decision today that could negatively impact our economy and many of the Commonwealth’s families. I hope Congress acts quickly to find a bipartisan, permanent solution to maintain the protections of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, which includes approximately 8,000 young Massachusetts residents who are right now serving in our military, attending our schools, and contributing to our economy while striving to give back to their communities,” said the statement.
Healey said she looked forward to working with the governor’s office on the DACA issue.
“I think it’s incredibly important that we do everything we can here in Massachusetts. Look at the actions of the mayor, how he has stepped up and really led the way. I’d like to see all of that from all leaders in government,” Healey said. She said she would join attorneys general from such states as California, New York, Washington, and New Mexico in pursuing legal action against the Trump administration’s DACA repeal.
DACA was meant as a temporary solution for undocumented children who were brought to the US by their undocumented parents or family. A piece of legislation known as the DREAM Act was introduced before DACA in 2001, but stalled in Congress. Because of this, then-President Obama created DACA by his own executive authority, granting temporary permission for these undocumented children, now mostly of productive-working age, to stay in the US legally.
The complexity of the situation faced by undocumented DREAMers protected under DACA has garnered sympathy from many conservatives, including Republican Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, both of whom have urged the president to avoid repealing the program.
According to Julio Henriquez, a Boston-based immigration and human rights attorney, the government’s claim that DACA’s implementation was legally flawed is untrue. DACA was contested right away by several states after it was unveiled five years ago and a federal court ruled that there was no legal basis for the challenge.
“It’s absurd to say [DACA] is unconstitutional if the courts already decided that it wasn’t,” Henriquez said. Those enrolled in DACA will be able to continue work or school over the next six months, but after that their future is uncertain. Because DACA is a federal matter, the issue can only be resolved by the federal government.
“Legally, if [DACA recipients] have any other path to immigration relief, now is the time to look for a way to transition into a new form of immigration relief,” Henriquez said.Markey said he is optimistic. He said protection for DREAMers could be attached to an upcoming Defense Bill set to pass through the US Senate in the next few weeks. The National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House by a 344-81 vote in July, features a plethora of military-based policies, including gender transition services for trans troops, the creation of a Space Corps, and funding from the Pentagon for the building of Trump’s border wall.
“These 800,000 young kids are right now in our army, in our navy, in our schools, in our workplace. They are protecting our nation. They are our best defense for the future,” Markey said.