President Trump has formally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — which protected unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, allowing them to live, go to school and work here without fear of deportation.
A coalition of Louisvillians in favor of DACA rallied at the federal courthouse shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday.
Sessions called the Obama-era program an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” and said the administration would give Congress six months to pass a bill keeping elements of the program “should it so choose.”
As Capitol reporter Ryland Barton reported earlier Tuesday, DACA provides some legal protections to about 800,000 undocumented immigrants across the country, and Trump’s decision to rescind it leaves thousands of Kentuckians in limbo:
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.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this year he was “sympathetic” to people who had been given protections under DACA.
But Tuesday afternoon, McConnell issued a statement praising 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.”
As NPR reported Tuesday, there are currently at least two bipartisan bills that could grant legal status or create a pathway to citizenship for those who were eligible for DACA.
In July, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a new version of the DREAM Act, after which the DREAMers are named. And a companion bill was filed in the House by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.
Additionally, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduced the American Hope Act, while Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., introduced the Recognizing America’s Children Act, a plan that has some support in his party.
President Trump issued a statement, saying, “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.”
Capitol reporter Ryland Barton contributed to this report.