(UPI) — The Justice Department announced plans Tuesday to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but gave Congress time to pass legislation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday at the direction of President Donald Trump that gave legal protections to roughly 800,000 people as DACA was being rescinded. He did not give a timeframe, but it’s been reported to be six months.
The attorney general took no questions from reporters.
“It is my duty to ensure the laws of the United States are enforced,” said Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama.
Sessions has cracked down on illegal immigration since taking the helm of the Justice Department.
DACA was put into effect through executive authority by former President Barack Obama in 2012. At the time, he said it was a temporary move.
“Simply put, if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and the rule of law in America, the Department of Justice cannot defend this type of overreach,” Sessions said.
Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said the administration, facing legal challenges to the program, “chose the least disruptive option” in letting the program wind down in six months.
The period is intended to push Congress to pass legislation for DACA, the controversial program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to obtain work permits and study in the country provided they meet certain guidelines, such as graduating from high school.
But if Congress fails to pass legislation by the end of six months, nearly 1 million migrants are at risk of being deported from a country they have lived in most of their lives.
“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,” Sen. Marco Rubio R-Fla. told CNN in June.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said a six-month timeframe to find new legislation for DACA was too long and it should be ended immediately.
“Ending DACA now gives chance to restore rule of law,” he tweeted. “Delaying so [Republican] leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide.”
During his campaign, Trump said hew would immediately end the program but he had wavered since becoming president. He said he would “deal with DACA with heart” and he supported “Dreamers” — the name given to those covered by the program.
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