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White House Says President Trump Will Announce His DACA Decision On Tuesday

Sep 4, 2017
Originally published on September 4, 2017 4:50 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Roughly 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children will soon learn the fate of a policy that shields them from deportation. The White House says tomorrow President Trump will announce his plans for the Obama-era executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. As a candidate, Trump vowed to end it, though over his campaign and months as president he has expressed compassion for DACA recipients, a group often referred to as DREAMers. Here he is speaking at the White House on Friday.

Roughly 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children will soon learn the fate of a policy that shields them from deportation. The White House says tomorrow President Trump will announce his plans for the Obama-era executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. As a candidate, Trump vowed to end it, though over his campaign and months as president he has expressed compassion for DACA recipients, a group often referred to as DREAMers. Here he is speaking at the White House on Friday.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We love the DREAMers. We love everybody.

SHAPIRO: For more on this we're joined by Geoff Bennett, who covers the White House for NPR. Hey, Geoff.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: While we await the president's announcement, Politico and other outlets are reporting that the president has decided to terminate the DACA program with a six-month delay to allow time for Congress to pass a legislative fix. Tell us about that.

BENNETT: Well, with the caveat that President Trump could always change his mind at the last minute, as you say, the president appears to be on the verge of ending this DACA policy with - you know, while opening this six-month window for Congress to pass a legislative fix. And this is his answer, Ari, to the ultimatum put by him by the attorneys general from what are now nine Republican-led states. They've threatened legal action if he doesn't take steps to end the policy by tomorrow. And the Republican officials say that DACA is unconstitutional because former President Obama established it by way of executive action.

And I think it's worth noting that when Obama crafted the policy five years ago, he said he did it because Congress had repeatedly failed to do what President Trump might be asking lawmakers to do now. And that's enshrine these DACA protections in law. And so, you know, if the president does make this request of Congress, we don't know if lawmakers will act within this six-month timeframe. And if Congress fails to find a solution and the DACA protections expire, DREAMers by and large fear that they would be targets for deportation in keeping with the president's, you know, hard-line immigration approach.

SHAPIRO: We're about to hear from a Republican who is optimistic that such a bill could pass Congress. From your view - you covered Congress for a while.

BENNETT: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: How difficult would it be for them to do this?

BENNETT: I'd say it's a pretty heavy lift because remember, back in 2013, House Republicans effectively killed the comprehensive immigration reform that was passed to them by the Senate. And traditionally, Republicans have said they would only get on board legislation that would help undocumented immigrants if Congress did something to beef up immigration enforcement or border security first. And there you have an obstacle right out of the gate because as you know, the president is on the hunt for congressional funding for his long-promised southern border wall of, you know, which Democrats want no part of.

But I'd say there is now bipartisan support for protecting DREAMers. And I think this six-month DACA deadline, if it comes to pass, would create a sense of urgency that I think would help focus the minds of lawmakers. And already today we've heard from Republicans like James Lankford of Oklahoma and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. They are on board with a DACA fix.

And then over in the House prominently is House speaker Paul Ryan, who I have to say sounds a lot like the immigration advocates I've spoken with when it comes to DACA's future. Here he is answering the question of whether Trump should end the policy while talking to WLCO radio in his home state of Wisconsin late last week.

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PAUL RYAN: I mean, I actually don't think he should do that. And I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix. Let me back up for a second. President Obama did not have the legislative authority to do what he did. You can't as an executive write law out of thin air. And so that's very, very clear. And we've made that very clear.

BENNETT: So Paul Ryan's saying the president should defer to Congress to come up with a permanent solution.

SHAPIRO: What other options does President Trump have on DACA?

BENNETT: Well, he could end the program outright and revoke the participants' work permits. He could end the program, phase it out over time, you know, ending the program now for new applicants and then allowing the DACA work permits to expire. But with these attorneys general threatening legal action, he could allow it to go to court, although it's highly unlikely that the Trump Justice Department would defend DACA considering that the president has almost reflexively opposed nearly every other Obama policy of consequence.

SHAPIRO: Do you know what's influencing the president's thinking here?

BENNETT: The White House keeps pointing to this moral question, that the president is weighing what to do with these nearly 800,000 young people who were brought to the country illegally, as they so often say, through no fault of their own. And who, by the way, according to the most recent survey, arrived in the U.S. on average at age 6 and a half. So DREAMers are a sympathetic group. And I think that is what complicates the politics for the president. Polls show the DACA program is widely popular even among Republicans. And although there are elements of the president's base and hard-liners within his administration who want him to end DACA, I think scrapping it would rank among the most divisive things the president has done so far.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Geoff Bennett. Thanks, Geoff.

BENNETT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.