Trump likely to hand DACA to Congress

Former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland, now a state representative from Columbus, called Trump’s decision “a thoughtless and cruel act,” saying the United States would be “deporting hundreds of thousands of young people — who didn’t come here by their choice — but have become hard-working, educated contributors to our society.”

WASHINGTON — A plan President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children was embraced by some top Republicans on Monday and denounced by others as the beginning of a “civil war” within the party.

The response was an immediate illustration of the battles ahead if Trump follows through with a plan that would hand a political hot potato to Republicans on the Hill who have a long history of dropping it.

Two people familiar with his decision-making said Sunday that Trump was preparing to announce an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or the DACA program, but with a six-month delay intended to give Congress time to pass legislation that would address the status of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants covered by the program.

The move comes after a long and notably public deliberation. Despite campaigning as an immigration hard-liner, Trump has said he is sympathetic to the plight of the immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and in some cases have no memories of the countries they were born in.

But such an approach — essentially handing the problem to Congress — is fraught with uncertainty and political perils that amount, according to one vocal opponent, to “Republican suicide.”

Still other Republicans say they are ready to take on a topic that has proven a non-starter and career-breaker for decades.

“If President Trump makes this decision, we will work to find a legislative solution to their dilemma,” said Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham.

Officials caution that Trump’s plan, to be unveiled Tuesday, is not yet final, and the president, who has been grappling with the issue for months, has been known to change his mind at the last minute ahead of an announcement. It also remains unclear exactly how a six-month delay would work in practice, including whether the government would continue to process applications under the program, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the country in the form of two-year, renewable permits.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of other Republicans urged Trump last week to hold off on scrapping DACA to give lawmakers time to come up with a legislative fix.

But Congress has repeatedly failed to come together on immigration overhaul legislation, and it remains uncertain whether the House would succeed in passing anything on the divisive topic.

The House under Democratic control passed a Dream Act in 2010, but it died in the Senate. Since Republicans retook control of the House in late 2010, it has taken an increasingly hard line on immigration. House Republicans refused to act on the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. Two years later, a GOP border security bill languished because of objections from conservatives.

The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 as a stopgap as they pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress. Many Republicans say they opposed the program on the grounds that it was executive overreach.

It’s unclear whether the president would throw his support behind existing legislation or encourage the writing of a new bill — tied, perhaps, to funding for his promised border wall. But it’s unclear how much political capital the president would want to put on the line, given his base’s strong opposition to illegal immigration, his campaign rhetoric blasting DACA as illegal “amnesty” and his reluctance to campaign hard for other priorities, like the health-care overhaul.

Graham said in a statement Monday that he would support the president if he decided ultimately to go through with the plan as outlined.

“I have always believed DACA was a presidential overreach. However, I equally understand the plight of the Dream Act kids who — for all practical purposes — know no country other than America,” Graham said in a statement.

Both Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich assailed Trump’s expected announcement. In a statement, Brown said Trump “promised to go after violent criminals, not innocent children.”

“We should not be targeting young people who are working, going to school, paying taxes and contributing to this country — the country they grew up in and the only home they’ve ever known,” Brown said.

In a tweet, Kasich referred to Jesus Contreras, a DACA recipient and Houston-area paramedic who worked on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Kasich tweeted that “people like Mr. Contreras deserve thanks” and that Trump “needs to give Dreamers certainty that USA is home.”

Former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Leland, now a state representative from Columbus, called Trump’s decision “a thoughtless and cruel act,” saying the United States would be “deporting hundreds of thousands of young people — who didn’t come here by their choice — but have become hard-working, educated contributors to our society.”

By contrast, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said “one of my favorite jobs … is participating in naturalization ceremonies for immigrants who have worked hard, followed the law and are becoming citizens of the U.S.”

“We need to make sure that anyone who wants to come to the U.S. follows the law, and we do that by enforcing our current immigration laws and reforming them where needed, and through securing the border, not through a blanket amnesty program that insults the hard-working immigrants who followed the rules,” Jordan said.

By Jill Colvin / The Associated Press

Posted Sep 5, 2017

Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief Jack Torry and Reporter Marty Schladen contributed to this story.

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