White House pushes back on reports that Trump has decided to end DACA program

Liz Goodwin
Senior National Affairs Reporter

WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday pushed back on multiple new reports that President Trump has decided to end an Obama-era program protecting 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

“No offense to your colleague from Fox News, but I think I’m a little bit better informed than they are in terms of when the White House has made a decision, and as I just said a moment ago, it’s not been finalized,” Sanders said in response to a question about a Fox News report saying Trump had decided to kill the program. McClatchyDC also reported that Trump was leaning toward letting the program expire by not renewing any of the young people’s two-year permits.

In February, Trump said he would treat the people in the program with “great heart,” and Sanders said Thursday that the president stood by that statement. The spokeswoman would not say when Trump would announce his decision.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy allows young people who were brought to the country as minors, are in school or have a high school diploma, and have no criminal record to apply for a temporary status that prevents them from being deported. Recipients can also apply for temporary, two-year work permits that allow them to work legally. The work permits are renewable, and so far the Trump administration has been processing applications for them, despite Trump’s vows on the campaign trail to end DACA.

Attorneys general from 10 states who have been suing the federal government over the program have asked for the White House to tell them by Sept. 5 whether the administration is extending it, creating a deadline for the president. Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, told reporters that the lawsuit will affect the “timing” of the president’s decision. CNN reported that the White House is hoping to push back the deadline.

Slideshow: Immigrants and advocates rally in support of DACA >>>

Groups that are pushing for less immigration —  and whose views represent much of Trump’s base — have been pressuring the president to end DACA.

“We have been mobilizing our 8-million-member network since February in opposition to the President continuing to give out new DACA work permits and renewals,” Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said in a statement.  “It is time for Pres. Trump to stop breaking one of the clearest campaign promises he made and end DACA work permits.”

But announcing the decision in the middle of recovery efforts from Harvey’s devastating floods in Texas would doubtless provoke pushback from Democrats and Republicans alike. Texas has 124,000 recipients of DACA — the second most of any state. Carolina Ramirez, a staffer for the United We Dream advocacy group and a DACA recipient in Houston, said she has been comforting friends and community members affected by the worst flooding in centuries while also frantically organizing calls to lawmakers to try to save DACA. “It’s been, I think, a storm in more ways than one,” Ramirez said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders answers reporters’ questions during a news conference at the White House, Aug. 31, 2017. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Democrats condemned the potential decision, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., calling it an “abject moral failure.” Even some Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have proposed giving these young people a path to earning permanent legal status. Those proposals could get new life if Trump decides to end the program.


Trump has struggled with what to do with DACA since taking office. “This is a very, very difficult for me … one of the most difficult subjects,” Trump said when asked if he would continue the program, which was initiated in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama. “I find it very, very hard doing what the law says to do.”

Immigration advocacy groups said the decision would throw hundreds of thousands of lives into limbo.

“There is no such thing as a ‘humane winding down’ of the DACA policy,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration America’s Voice Education Fund. “If new applications are stopped and renewals are ended, hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of families will be plunged into crisis. Young people will start to lose jobs, leave universities, and lose the right to drive.”

But for now, Sharry says, he’s just hoping the president will decide to continue the program.

A girl sitting on the shoulders of her father holds a sign reading “Keep Families Together” at a protest in New York against President Trump’s proposed end of the DACA program, which protects immigrant children from deportation, Aug. 30, 2017. (Photo: Joe Penney/Reuters)

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