In a speech filled with anti-immigrant falsehoods, Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed on Tuesday morning that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded nearly one million undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation, is “being rescinded.”
Sessions pointedly referred to DACA recipients as“illegal aliens” and characterized them as “mostly adult.”
“The compassionate thing is to do is end the lawlessness,” Sessions said. Congress will reportedly have six months to amend the program before it officially expires, which, for a Republican-controlled Congress that’s passed zero major pieces of legislation, is an awfully tall order. Moreover, the tenor of Sessions’ speech—which a Breitbart reporter characterized as “full Breitbart”—suggested he was opposed to any subsequent congressional fix.
“We cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It’s just that simple,” the attorney general also said, blaming President Obama’s executive action to create DACA for a “surge” of minors at the country’s southern border in 2014. “This doesn’t mean they’re bad people.” (Sessions’ argument about a the “surge” is flatly disingenuous at best, as undocumented young people arriving in 2014 arrived seven years too late to be eligible to apply for DACA.)
He also portrayed DACA recipients—many of whom have lived in the United States for nearly their entire lives—as foreigners who took jobs from “hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
Sessions pegged the timing of the announcement to “imminent litigation” from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other attorneys general who threatened to sue the administration over DACA if a decision favorable to the anti-immigrant hawks wasn’t announced by today.
There’s been much reporting around the fact that, although he pledged on the campaign trail to end DACA, Trump may have been wavering on whether or not to unceremoniously ship young people raised as Americans out of the country.
As The New York Times reported after Sessions’ press conference, it’s possible the president doesn’t even fully understand he’s rolling back a program he once passionately defended:
As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind, according to a person familiar with their thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity without authorization to comment on it.
In a Department of Homeland Security statement leaked to Axios before the press conference, Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said no current DACA recipients will be impacted before March 5, 2018, but emphasized: “I want to be clear that no new initial requests or associated applications filed after today will be acted on.”
Current DACA recipients whose permits expire between now and the March 5 deadline can still apply for a two-year renewal until October 5, according to ABC News.
This post has been updated to reflect breaking news.