New Mexico’s congressional Democrats excoriated President Donald Trump’s decision today to end a program that allows children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to remain in the country.
Rep. Steve Pearce, the delegation’s lone Republican defended the president’s action and called for a long-term policy solution.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA program – this morning, focusing on the administration’s legal defense for ending the program. DACA has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S.
“This policy was implemented unilaterally to great controversy and legal concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.,” Sessions said.
“In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch,” the attorney general added.
“The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
The government will stop processing new applications under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S.
But the administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an Albuquerque Democrat who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and who is running for governor of New Mexico in 2018, blasted the president’s decision as “an indefensible and unjust act of cruelty.” There are about 8,000 young people in New Mexico who are beneficiaries of the program.
“In every way, DACA has made our nation stronger and kept alive the American dream for 800,000 aspiring Americans,” Lujan Grisham said. “DREAMers’ lives are not bargaining chips and should not be used as pawns in furthering the President’s anti-immigrant agenda. They are children who are American in every way, their contributions are real, and they and their futures should be treated with the dignity to which every person is entitled.
“Any attempt to end DACA, whether it is tomorrow or in six-months, will devastate lives, ruin families, and disrupt businesses and local economies,” Lujan Grisham added. “Such a deliberately immoral decision would tear at the fabric of our country and be a permanent stain on our history. It is critical that the President uphold DACA until Congress passes the DREAM Act.”
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also criticized the decision..
“DACA has enabled nearly 800,000 talented young people to contribute more fully to this country,” he said. “They’re nurses, engineers, small business owners, our friends and our neighbors. These young people came to the United States under the age of 16, some of them only a year or two old. They grew up in the U.S., going to our public schools, singing the Star Spangled Banner, pledging allegiance to the only flag they’ve ever known: the American flag.”
“Since 2012, the 9,000 DREAMers in New Mexico have not had to live in fear of deportation,” he added. “If the Trump administration moves ahead with this mean-spirited attempt to repeal DACA, those young people and their families will once again risk being torn apart. ”
Sen. Tom Udall, also a Democrat, said DACA has “compassionately” allowed 9,000 young New Mexicans, who have known no other country than the United States as their home, to remain in the U.S. to pursue their dreams.
“These young people came to our country as children, and today, they are working and going to school to become teachers, doctors, engineers,” Udall said. “They are making our country stronger – reneging on our promise to them now is hurtful and wrong, not to mention a disaster for our economy.
“The United States of America that I love honors its commitments, and I will fight tooth and nail to defend our Dreamers and prevent families from being ripped apart,” Udall added. “Instead of peddling these dangerous, hateful proposals to deport young people who are contributing to our society and waste billions of dollars to build a pointless wall, we should be focused on comprehensive legislation to fix our immigration system.”
Pearce, who is also running for governor in 2018, said the DACA program is a “harmful and damaging” program that “fails to provide certainty and leaves millions with an illusion of hope.”
” It is only a temporary fix for millions of young adults who have only ever known the United States as home.,” Pearce said. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress for fairness, justice, and family unity, and will fight for a permanent change for DREAMERS that ensures both current and future generations do not face the same challenges and burdens.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., called it a “heartless and grave mistake.”
“We should never be a country that kicks out some of our best and brightest students,” Heinrich said. “In the five years since its implementation, DACA has changed the lives of many of our brightest students and veterans who have come out of the shadows to earn an education, contribute to our economy, and give back to their communities and their country. I’ve had the privilege of meeting DREAMers in New Mexico and sharing their inspiring stories. These young people are smart, inspiring, and most of them don’t know how to be anything but American.
“We should not be a nation that tears families apart,” he added.
Meanwhile, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas was on MSNBC moments after Sessions’ announcement. He criticized the decision and called it a “black eye” on the nation. He also said the DACA recipients are “just as legal as Melania Trump,” the nation’s foreign-born First Lady, whose immigration status has also been called into question.
“I believe the legal fight has only begun there are many attorneys general who will defend the DACA program,” he said.
Balderas said many so-called “Dreamers” who are benefiting from the program are law enforcement officers, first responders, teachers and others who contribute to the fabric of America.
“There absolutely is a real public safety emergency in our border states,” Balderas told MSNBC. “I believe it’s created a public safety crisis…and I don’t believe communities re going to sit idle and let Washington play politics.”
“I hope the president will quit playing politics and put American security first,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.