U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump is giving Congress a six month deadline to fix America's immigration system. He revealed that an Obama administration program known as DACA will come to an end after that deadline.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Sessions says President Obama's creation of that program was "an unconstitutional exercise of authority" since only Congress has the power to do so.
President Trump issued a statement saying: "As President, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."
Before the big announcement, Trump had tweeted it's time for Congress to fix America's immigration system, hinting that his administration will end DACA but delay enforcing the decision to give Congress time to act.
Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
The administration is hoping six months is enough time for Congress to finally come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.
"The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws – this is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend," Trump said.
"In referencing the idea of creating new immigration rules unilaterally, President Obama admitted that 'I can’t just do these things by myself' – and yet that is exactly what he did, making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic," he continued.
The DACA program was established in 2012 and was implemented to protect young immigrants known as "dreamers" who did not choose to violate U.S. immigration law since they were brought into the country by their parents or other family members.
DACA has protected roughly 800,000 people from deportation, allowing them to work legally as long as they have the required work permit which is renewable every two years.
The president has been going back and forth for months over what to do about the program as Republican state officials have threatened to sue the administration if the president did not end the program.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Friday Trump was in the process of finalizing a decision.
"He loves children and wants to make sure this decision is done correctly," she said.
Trump has publicly wrestled with the decision since he took office, saying in February that the topic was "a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have."
"You have some absolutely incredible kids - I would say mostly," he said. "I love these kids."
Many people have protested ending the program because of its economic impact. According to a survey from the Center for American Progress, 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed.
"Because of DACA, I opened a restaurant. We are contributing to the economic growth of our local community. We pay our fair share of taxes and hire employees...It will be hard to maintain my business if DACA ended," a survey respondent said. "I depend on my (social security) for a lot of my business, such as when getting licenses, permits, leases, and credit."
Some members of President Trump's evangelical advisory board have asked him to protect the "dreamers."
The Washington Post reports Atlanta pastor Jentzen Franklin and others pleaded with the president to preserve DACA last week in a meeting in the Oval Office.
A White House official said they hope delaying the enforcement by six months will give Congress time to act on a broader solution for immigration reform.