U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced during a press conference on Tuesday that the Trump administration has decided to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, but the announcement has drawn criticism from lawmakers who represent Centre County.
DACA is an immigration program implemented in 2012 by the Obama administration. Under the program, any undocumented person who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for temporary protection from deportation. DACA recipients or “Dreamers” can also apply for a work permit.
If DACA is granted, deportation protection lasts for a two-year time period, after which the recipient can reapply.
As of Tuesday, nearly 800,000 Dreamers live or work in the U.S. and all current DACA recipients have lived in the country for at least 10 years, according to DHS.
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During the press conference, Sessions referred to the program as an unconstitutional use of authority by the Obama administration. He added that the program provided no end-date and the use of executive action circumvented congress’ rejection of legislation that would have accomplished a similar result.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, offered support for DACA recipients, but not for the program, saying that it is the job of Congress, not the executive branch to create immigration policy.
“Individuals brought here as children, through no fault of their own, know no other country but the U.S.,” Thompson said in an email. “Those who contribute to our society and economy should not be deported.”
There are 1.3 million people in the U.S. who are enrolled in or eligible for DACA and that group pays about $2 billion each year in state and local taxes, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said in a statement that deporting DACA recipients would cost the U.S. $60 billion and result in a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.
“They (DACA recipients) have been law-abiding residents who have learned English, paid taxes and secured jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families,” Casey said. “Our government promised them that they would be protected if they came forward, and now President Trump is breaking that promise.”
In July, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R- Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D- N.Y., introduced the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for people who have DACA protection or are undocumented and graduate from U.S. high schools, attend college, enter the workforce or enlist in the military.
The bill has not been brought to the floor for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, but Thompson said he is eager to work quickly and in a bipartisan way.
“This is a legislative issue and only Congress has the constitutional authority to fix it,” Thompson said in an email. “We must debate this issue and act swiftly.”