In a brief address, Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed that the Trump administration would “wind down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by the Obama administration in 2012.
Emphasizing the familiar nativist talking points that have defined the administration’s rhetoric on immigration, Sessions said that ending DACA would ensure the “rule of law” and protect American citizens from “crime, violence, and terrorism.” Sessions also implied that the nearly 800,000 Dreamers currently protected by DACA, as well as the “surge” of undocumented immigrants, were taking American jobs. Sessions indicated that DACA “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans,” as well as created a humanitarian crisis at the Southern border where, according to the Attorney General, there has been “a surge of minors” attempting to enter the country illegally.
Sessions’s defenses were flimsy. Children arriving at the border after 2012 are not eligible for protection under DACA. The executive order only applies to those who are younger than 31 after June 15, 2012. In addition, Dreamers must have arrived in the United States prior to their sixteenth birthday and lived in the country continuously since June 2007. Further, despite Sessions’s warnings of crime and criminality, DACA recipients have to pass extensive vetting; in the process, they identify themselves and acknowledge to government officials that they are undocumented. In doing so, DACA recipients have made themselves uniquely vulnerable to deportation, placing an immense amount of trust in America, a trust that was irrevocably broken by the Trump administration today.
If Sessions relied on the standard immigration talking points, warning of crime and “illegality,” he also relied on returning the United States to “Constitutional order and rule of law.” “This policy [was] implemented unilaterally,” Sessions said. “The executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch refused to implement,” Sessions added, referring to the fact that DACA was implemented through executive order after Congress failed to pass any iteration of DACA for eleven years. DACA, Sessions emphasized, is an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
“As AG, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced,” Sessions said, “there is no greater good... than preserving and strengthing the impartial rule of law.” According to Sessions, ending DACA is an example of “compassion,” one born of enforcing laws and correcting the Obama administration’s constitutional overreach. He pointed to the Fifth Circuit’s decision to overrule Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), an Obama administration action that offered deferred action to undocumented parents of American citizens or legal residents, as precedent, indicating that DACA would also end if challenged in court (indeed, the AGs of Texas, Idaho, Alabama, Arkansas, Lousiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia have already threatened to sue the administration over DACA). Sessions indicated that immigration reform was the job of Congress—not the executive branch—and encouraged Congress to “thoughtfully pursue” a course of action, an “immigration policy that serves the national interest.”
Sessions said the word “compassion” many times but it was clear that such “compassion” is simply not reserved for the nearly 800,000 people who will, after the “wind down” period overseen by Homeland Security, likely face deportation to countries they have little affiliation with. Instead, compassion was synonymous with the “rule of law,” upended, according to Sessions, by lax immigration laws and subsequent “lawlessness.” Ending DACA, Sessions argued, would “protect the integrity of our Consitution” and “ensure the safety and security of the American people.” It certainly reveals an astounding lack of compassion to look Dreamers and simply refuse to see them as part and parcel of the “American people.”
On Twitter, Senator Elizabeth Warren called the plan “mass deportation,” adding that it “is part of the bigoted policies that are a cornerstone of the [Trump administration].”
After reading his brief statement, Sessions declined to take questions.