The White House on Tuesday defended President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects roughly 800,000 young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“It’s not cold-hearted for the president to uphold the law. We are a nation of law and order,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the first White House briefing since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program’s conclusion earlier in the day.
As the White House faces backlash from Democrats, immigration advocates and even some Republicans, Sanders defended the president’s decision as “responsible” and “constitutional.” For weeks, groups have been threatening to sue the administration in the event that it ended the program, and legal action appears inevitable.
The Trump administration is placing the responsibility to replace the program squarely on Congress, as Republicans prepare for midterm elections in 2018.
“We have confidence that Congress is going to step up and do their job,” Sanders said, adding that if members can’t do their jobs, “then they need to get out of the way.”
Often, presidents send concepts of legislative fixes, or have their administration work with Congress on legislative language, but Mr. Trump isn’t sending any direction to congressional leaders.
Sanders wouldn’t commit the president to signing a stand-alone bill to address Dreamers, saying the president would prefer a legislative fix that addresses many areas of immigration reform, including border security.
Sanders said the final decision was made over the Labor Day weekend. In the past, the president has offered conflicting statements on the program’s future. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump said he would cut off the program immediately. After taking office, the president pledged to treat DACA recipients with “heart,” and said Dreamers should, “rest easy.”
Sanders said following immigration law isn’t acting without heart, and what is acting with heart is reaching a long-term, legislative solution to address the problem of young people who came to the U.S. with their parents.
Sanders also defended the decision to have Sessions announce the program’s conclusion, rather than Mr. Trump, saying the DACA issue is a legal one. But Sanders also focused on economic issues, saying Dreamers have jobs while four million Americans are unemployed.
Sanders pointed to the statement Mr. Trump issued earlier in the day.
“As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful Democratic process – while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Mr. Trump said in the statement. “We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.”
“Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too,” Mr. Trump’s statement continued. “Being in government means setting priorities. Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families.”