Tuesday’s announcement from the Trump administration officially ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — means nearly 6,000 Kentuckians brought to America as undocumented children would be eligible for deportation.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Obama-era program an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” and announced that the administration would give Congress six months to pass a bill keeping elements of the program “should it so choose.”
Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat representing Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional district, called Trump’s promise to dismantle the program “cruel, inhumane, and harmful to us all.”
“These are people who were brought here as children, played by the rules, and earned diplomas,” Yarmuth said of undocumented immigrants affected by the policy. “If we want to be a country that lives by our ideals, that rewards merit and hard work, it is our obligation to reject the president’s heartless decision.”
The program provides some legal protections to about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants across the country.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 5,848 Kentucky residents had been approved for protections under DACA as of the end of March.
DACA applies to people brought to the U.S. prior to mid-2007 who were no older than 16 when they arrived and no older than 31 as of June 2012.
The program allows young undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and protection from deportation. Recipients could not have felony convictions or more than three misdemeanor convictions.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul echoed Sessions’ argument that the Obama-era executive order was illegal, but called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution that would keep parts of the program.
“There are ways to make sure people who have been here for many years since childhood are allowed to stay,” Paul said on Twitter.
“We should include efforts to reduce and reform immigration in other areas at the same time. Congress will need to address this problem.”
Attorney General Sessions made the announcement Tuesday morning, saying the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said he was “sympathetic” to people who had been given protections under DACA.
But in a statement Tuesday afternoon, McConnell praised Trump’s decision to pull the plug on the program.
“President Obama wrongly believed he had the authority to re-write our immigration law. Today’s action by President Trump corrects that fundamental mistake,” he said. “This Congress will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.”
This story has been updated.