Serafina Ha (right) of Chicago embraces Becky Belcore of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium during a demonstration in favor of immigration reform in front of the White House on Aug. 30. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.
Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. He has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program and struggled with his own misgivings about targeting minors for deportation.
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Conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program, the two sources said, though White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.
In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”
Trump is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday, and the White House informed House Speaker Paul Ryan of the president’s decision on Sunday morning, according to a source close to the administration. Ryan had said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t think the president should terminate DACA, and that Congress should act on the issue.
Neither the White House not a spokesman for Ryan immediately responded to requests for comment.
The president’s expected announcement is likely to shore up his base, which rallied behind his broader campaign message about the importance of enforcing the country’s immigration laws and securing the border. At the same time, the president’s decision is likely to be one of the most contentious of his early administration, opposed by leaders of both parties and by the political establishment more broadly.
The White House and Congress have tried to pass the issue off on each other – with each arguing that the other is responsible for determining the fate of the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from DACA. Though most Republicans believe that rolling back DACA is a solid legal decision, they are conscious of the difficult emotional terrain. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch joined Ryan in cautioning Trump against rolling back the program.
The president is likely to couch his decision in legalese. Many on the right, even those who support protections for children brought into the country illegally through no fault of their own, argue that DACA is unconstitutional because former President Barack Obama carried it out unilaterally instead of working through Congress.
Some Republican lawmakers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have said that Congress needs to pass a law to protect the so-called Dreamers.
“My hope is that as part of this process we can work on a way to deal with this issue and solve it through legislation, which is the right way to do it and the constitutional way to do it,” Rubio told CNN in June.
Trump’s expected decision to scrap DACA represents another challenge for Ryan and fellow congressional Republicans, who are facing an end-of-September deadline to avert a government shutdown and government debt default, while also tackling a Hurricane Harvey relief package and a major tax reform push.