House speaker says Donald Trump’s decision to rescind protections for young people brought to the US illegally as children was ‘right’
As 15 states and Washington DC filed suit against Donald Trump over the rescinding of protection for young people brought to the US illegally as children, House speaker Paul Ryan said such “Dreamers” should “rest easy” as Congress tackled immigration reform.
Nearly 800,000 Dreamers are currently shielded from deportation under an Obama-era directive, most of them living in California and Texas. The lawsuit, filed in New York, was announced by the Washington state attorney general, Bob Ferguson, who said Trump had created “a dark time for our country”.
The other states in the lawsuit are New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Others could join.
The legal action came one day after the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced that the president would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) program, which provides a shield against deportation.
Obama called the move “wrong”, “self-defeating” and “cruel”. Trump challenged lawmakers to “do something and do it right”, giving them a six-month window to act.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Ryan said the president was “right in his decision” because Obama had “overstepped his constitutional bounds”.
“The president was right to give us the time we need to find that compromise,” the speaker said. “Where does that compromise exist? That’s what we’re going to spend the next months figuring out.”
Ryan said he would work with Trump to find a way to increase border security and provide a solution for Dreamers.
“This is a dilemma that in large part stems from the fact that it is a symptom of a larger problem – and the larger problem is that we do not have control of our borders. It is only reasonable and fitting that we also address the root cause of the problem … while we address this very real and very human problem that’s right in front of us.”
A battle looms, nonetheless, over how to achieve reform in so short a time and on an issue that has vexed US politics for years. Democrats on Wednesday called on Republicans to support a standalone measure to codify protections for Dreamers.
Trump, who has not said what measure he would be willing to sign, caused confusion when he tweeted on Tuesday night that he would “revisit the issue” if Congress failed to act to his timeline.
Aboard Air Force One on Wednesday on his way to North Dakota, the president told reporters he sent “no mixed signal at all” and said: “Congress, I really believe, wants to take care of this situation … even very conservative members.”
Without sharing details, Trump said he envisioned Congress passing legislation that married border security and protections for Dreamers. The Senate and House minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, had appeared interested in such a deal, he claimed, during a White House meeting with congressional leaders.
“We discussed that also today, and Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I,” Trump said. “And I said if we can get something to happen, we’re going to sign it and we’re going to make a lot of happy people.”
Earlier on Wednesday, at a press event with Dreamers, Democratic leaders said six months was not enough time to consider comprehensive immigration reform.
“The president’s decision to end Daca was heartless and it was brainless,” Schumer said, imploring Republican leaders to bring to the floor the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill that would grant a path to permanent residency for Dreamers. Democrats were prepared to attach the measure to other items until it passed, he said.
Dreamer politics have shifted since 2012, when Obama enacted Daca, under which people brought to the US illegally before the age of 16, who have lived in the country for five years and have no criminal record, among other requirements, are protected from deportation and eligible for two-year work permits.
Many Republicans have softened. Susan Collins, a Maine senator, said she believed her party was largely sympathetic to the motive behind Daca, even if they did not believe the president had the authority to make it law.
“In all of our states, there are young people who came to this country through no decision of their own with their parents or a parent, and in some cases have known no other country,” Collins told reporters.
“I think there is great sympathy on both sides of the aisle for providing some kind of protection for these children and young adults.”
At the Democratic press conference, Senator Kamala Harris of California, the state with the largest population of Dreamers, said she had spoken to administration officials who had never met such young people.
“How can you form such strong opinions about people you’ve never met … and then allow this population of people to be vilified?” she asked. “It’s not only wrong, it’s irresponsible. We’ve got to stop playing politics with these kids.”
Karen Caudillo, a 21-year-old Daca recipient attending the event, broke down in tears.
“I’ve been fighting so long to be able to sustain myself, to go to school, to be productive,” she said, clutching a photograph of herself from kindergarten. “It just feels like everything is going to waste.”
Caudillo was four when her parents entered the US from Mexico. The prospect of being deported to a country she has no memory of is unthinkable.
“My earliest memory is from the first grade, playing with a friend named Eddy,” said Caudillo, now a junior studying political science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “I never really even knew what being undocumented was until my sophomore or junior year of high school when I was looking into colleges.”
Though Caudillo is angry with the administration for canceling Daca, she remains hopeful lawmakers will find a permanent solution.
“I’m energized,” she said. “I’m empowered. I think that the right people will step in and support humanity.”