Tuesday was another dark day for the status of immigrants trying to survive under the Trump administration. The Department of Homeland Security moved towards formally ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — commonly known as the DACA — a program started to protect children who entered the United States without documentation as children. Thousands of lives depend on it and Obama's statement on President Donald Trump ending DACA is an emotional reminder of what the program meant to him when he was president; and what it means to those DREAMers who will lose so much in its absence.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the Trump administration's decision to end DACA after a six-month period, ostensibly to give Congress enough time to come up with a more palatable plan for the Republicans. Naturally, Sessions attempted to blame the Obama administration for enacting a "unilateral executive amnesty" in 2012. He declared the act was unconstitutional in a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, according to CNN.
Obama took to Facebook to issue his own reply to the federal government's move to end DACA and potentially expel 800,000 participants in the program from across the country.
Obama opened his Facebook statement by acknowledging that immigration concerns can get tricky, because "We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules."
But he made it clear that he saw this move by the Trump administration as purely political.
This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.
Obama went on to note that the program is specifically tailored to benefit people who have lived in the United States for a significant period of time, are going to school or willing to serve in the military. While Sessions deemed the DACA unconstitutional in a letter, Obama refuted that explanation in his Facebook statement:
Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be. What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.
This was President Obama's most impassioned statement since leaving the Oval Office in January, and stands as a testament to his commitment to the 800,000 DREAMers in America. Former Vice President Joe Biden took to Twitter to concur with Obama.
As for President Trump; he issued a lengthy statement insisting the decision to roll back protections for these DREAMers was a move to protect the country:
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.
Whether he "favors" punishing children or not, this decision will indeed punish many. And Obama's statement is a reminder of who is at risk.