Good morning, friends. Summer's over, Congress is back in session and we're in for one hell of a fall (whether or not you see a pun there depends on your politics).
President Trump's DACA decision calls into question the status of nearly 790,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived here as children. Under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, they were able to get work permits and a two-year stay on deportation proceedings. Ending DACA was an old Trump campaign promise, but he's wavered on it since: as late as June, the Department of Homeland Security was saying DACA recipients would still be able to renew their status.
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday morning that Trump is rescinding the program — after a "wind-down period" ostensibly designed to allow Congress to come up with a legislative solution. (In Congress, Sessions himself has long been a vocal opponent of similar efforts.)
According to statistics from the Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had accepted 7,144 DACA applications in Pennsylvania as of March, and some 21,000 people statewide could be eligible for the program, including 5,000 people in Philadelphia and 3,000 in Chester County. In New Jersey, 71,000 people are potentially eligible for DACA, and USCIS has already accepted more than 25,000 applications.
Philadelphia has been at the forefront of the fight on immigration issues this year; last week, the city filed a lawsuit over Sessions' attempts to withhold federal funding from Philly over its sanctuary city status. Mayor Kenney has called for Trump to uphold DACA, and the city's immigrant-rights groups are marching to Philly's ICE headquarters as I write to oppose the decision.
DACA was born out of Congress' failure to pass the DREAM act, which would have offered a path to permanent residency for immigrants who arrived here as children — and many Republicans, like PA's own Sen. Pat Toomey, say they only oppose DACA because it was enacted by executive order, not Congress, which detractors have argued is unconstitutional. "These initiatives were never intended to be some kind of substitute for genuine statutory immigration reform," Anil Kalhan, a Drexel immigration law professor, told me last week. But the first version of the DREAM act was introduced 16 years ago, and this Congress is one of the most deeply divided in recent memory.
DACA is popular: 78 percent of registered voters, according to a Morning Consult poll, think undocumented immigrants who arrived as children should be allowed to stay. And any decision was likely to prompt a legal challenge: Several Republican attorneys general threatened to sue if Trump didn't rescind the program; New York and Washington have threatened to sue if he does.
Meanwhile, immigrant-rights advocates have said for months that the conversation on immigration in the age of Trump can't focus only on DACA recipients.
"[I] no longer look over my shoulder, worried that I might be deported one day," DACA recipient Olivia Vasquez said at a city ceremony commemorating the program's five-year anniversary earlier this month. "But I still worry about my family, my mom, my uncle, my community, people I love who sometimes get lost in the conversation, most who have never had the opportunity to rest because they are always at risk."
(New York Times reporter Vivian Yee has a good Twitter thread on what happens to DACA recipients now, per Trump officials: no new DACA applications after today, people who have DACA status now can keep it until it expires, and while ICE won't explicitly target recipients, "people who lose DACA will be treated like anyone else in the country illegally.")
"He's not my bride, and I'm not his groom." — Russia President Vladimir Putin on President Trump at a presser in China Tuesday.
"Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!" — President Trump on Twitter Tuesday morning, appearing to confirm reports that he expects Congress to come up with a DACA solution.
"He's being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and because he doesn't have any strong ideological anchor, or deep knowledge of the issue, he ends up sort of not knowing what to do." — Mark Krikorian, the head of the pro-Trump Center For Immigration Studies, talking about Trump's DACA decision in the New York Times.
"If the president ends DACA, it's not only wrong and immoral and insulting, it's really bad for our economy." — Sen. Bob Casey, at a Labor Day event yesterday.