President Donald Trump said his decision Tuesday to phase out a federal program that allows young undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States offers “a window of opportunity for Congress” to end a decades-long stalemate on Capitol Hill and overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
Although the White House said that many of the 800,000 young immigrants will “generally not be impacted” by Trump’s decision until March 5 of next year should Congress fail to act, his announcement provoked intense criticism from Democrats, with Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles calling it “heartless,” “unconscionable” and “un-American.”
With his announcement, Trump essentially tossed the issue toward Congress, which has not approved a major revision in the immigration laws since 1986. Instead, congressional efforts to agree on immigration changes collapsed in 2005 and 2006 and a bill which passed the Senate in 2013 died in the Republican-controlled House.
Trump’s announcement invalidated an executive order issued by President Barack Obama called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That action, initiated in 2012 and expanded in 2014, was met with sharp GOP criticism with Republicans who insisted Obama had no constitutional authority to permit the immigrants to remain in the country.
“Today's announcement puts the power back with Congress, where it belongs,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington. “Congress has six months to take action to create a permanent, legal and orderly immigration system - which includes addressing DACA recipients.”
Calling the program “one of the most egregious examples of his executive overreach,” Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said the six-month window for Congress to act is “an opportunity for us to identify needed solutions that are fair and orderly for Dreamers who didn’t choose to break our laws and know no other home than America.”
“As the son of immigrants who legally came to the United States from Italy, I have seen the success story of legal immigration firsthand,” he said. “In order to ensure this country remains a beacon of hope we must adhere to the Constitution, which empowers Congress to write immigration laws, not the executive branch.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said “Congress should act rather than continue the Obama administration’s unconstitutional executive action,” adding he supports bipartisan efforts to “find a permanent solution that will allow those in the DACA program to stay here and continue to contribute to our society.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters “we’d like to have confidence that Congress will actually do their job. . . If Congress doesn't want to do the job that they were elected to do, then maybe they should get out of the way and let someone else do it.”
Trump, in a written statement, said while new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two years from Tuesday. Trump said all submitted applications will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration.
“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out,” Trump said.
Hours after Trump announced his decision to rescind Obama’s executive action, Obama sent out a rare statement saying the issue was “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,” he said, adding that while both parties have worked to keep children brought over illegally in the U.S., Congress never sent him a bill.
According to the left–leaning For Ohio’s Future Action Fund, some 4,400 young people in the state are here under the program. Interfaith Worker Justice, a group fighting for to keep the program, says the state would lose more than $251.6 million annually in state gross domestic product if the state’s 3,865 “Dreamers” who work leave the workforce.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from the Gahanna area, said, “The Dreamers are committed to making America great and are law-abiding, patriotic, innocent young people contributing to their community…Now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to do what is right, as opposed to green-lighting President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
The decision also spurred several Ohio colleges and universities to urge Ohio lawmakers to act.
Ohio State University said it sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, urging them to “take swift action to find a bipartisan solution that will, at a minimum, codify existing DACA policy into law.”
The university said it’s reviewing Tuesday’s announcement and its potential impacts at Ohio State.
Denison University President Adam Weinberg joined presidents at Kenyon College, Oberlin College, the College of Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan University, urging Brown to uphold the provisions of DACA and “take legislative action to move beyond executive order to a law ensuring its continuation.”
“A permanent path forward for these students, American in all but legal status, secures their education and the valuable role they play on our campuses today and in Ohio and the world tomorrow,” the letter read.
Jennifer Smola of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.