HARTFORD, CT — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans Tuesday to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive action that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The program is expected to be phased out over six-months. The delay is expected to give Congress time to figure out a solution for an estimated 800,000 children under the age of 16 who were brought to the United States by their immigrant parents.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who watched Sessions announcement on a staffer’s cellphone before holding his own press conference at the Legislative Office Building, said the decision to end DACA “is a gigantic and outrageous betrayal of American values.”
He said it’s a sad day for American justice “because it imposes on hundreds of thousands of young people, including 10,000 in Connecticut, a cruel and irrational policy.”
He said these young people work for major corporations, are in the military and are a part of the U.S. economy.
“This massive deportation is unprecedented in American history,” Blumenthal said.
“Threatening deportation will cruelly disrupt and derail hundreds of thousands Dreamers’ lives — and cost America their enormous skills and energy,” Blumenthal added. “Just days ago the President called the Dreamers ‘terrific’ and said ‘we love’ them, making his plan the height of hypocrisy and inhumanity.”
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said “President Trump’s wrong-minded decision to turn back the clock on DACA is completely nonsensical.”
He added: “From elementary and secondary education, to post-secondary education, to supports for vibrant, safe communities — we have invested so much into undocumented children who have grown up in America. Denying these youths access to work opportunities and affordable higher education goes against the very core of who we are.”
Sessions, however, did not take questions at the press conference so there are still more questions than answers with respect to clarifying the administration’s decision.
Blumenthal said Trump threw a “ticking time bomb into the Congressional arena without any proposal.”
He said he hopes Congress will rise to the challenge and adopt the bipartisan Dream Act. Congress has been working on passing various versions of the legislation since President George W. Bush’s administration.
“Without DACA, 800,000 immigrant youth and their families who have made this country their home will be subject to racial profiling, being locked up, and deported,” Camila Bortolleto, a DACA recipient and campaign manager for Connecticut Students for a Dream, said. “Killing DACA for 800,000 who are thriving is immoral and wrong. This cold hearted decision disrupts the lives of immigrant communities.”
Blumenthal said these youth came forward on the promise that they would be permitted to stay here.
“Now America is breaking that promise and betraying its values,” Blumenthal added.
He said Trump has essentially said he would rescind a policy without offering any alternative, and he also pointed out that over time Trump has been inconsistent in his message.
“You have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive — now we’re supposed to send them out of the country? I don’t believe in that,” Trump said during a 2011 interview from CNBC that was tweeted by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski.
As recently as April, Trump told reporters that DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, should “rest easy” because they are not targets of his heightened immigration enforcement efforts.
DACA recipients were asked to register with the government and give their names, addresses, and other personal information in order to continue to participate in the program. It’s unclear what the government will do with this data as it waits for Congress to act.
“Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday. “We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators. I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
In the meantime, Bortolleto said, “immigrant youth should face no gap in protection as Congress develops legislation. This means that Congress needs to act fast. They should protect immigrant youth and not put other immigrants in more danger.”
The Trump administration said in a statement that renewal applications for DACA employment authorization will be accepted by Oct. 5, 2017, for people whose current documents expire between today and March 5, 2018, and will be processed. It will not accept new applications.
In making Tuesday’s announcement, Trump cited the threat of a lawsuit that Attorneys General from 10 states were threatening to file if the president didn’t end the program. The 10 attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, claimed the program was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen disagreed.
“I am disappointed in President Trump’s actions today. DACA is not only lawful, it is smart and compassionate public policy,” Jepsen, said. “My office is currently in communication with our partners in Connecticut state government as well as fellow attorneys general in other states, as we review the Trump Administration’s actions to determine what our response may be.”