President Trump Puts Immigration Issues Back in Congress’ Lap
WASHINGTON--President Donald Trump said his decision Tuesday to phase out a federal program that allows young, undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States offers “a window of opportunity for Congress” to end a decades-long stalemate on Capitol Hill and overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
Although Trump said in a statement the 800,000 people his decision affects will not be forced to leave the country for another two years, his announcement provoked intense criticism from Democrats and some Republicans, with Democrat Tim Ryan of Niles calling it heartless, unconscionable and un-American.
With his announcement, Trump essentially tossed the issue toward Congress, which has not approved a major revision in the immigration laws since 1986. Instead, congressional efforts to agree on immigration changes collapsed in 2005 and 2006, and a bill that passed the Senate in 2013 died in the Republican-controlled House.
Between 1,000 and 1,200 young people in Stark County are covered by DACA, estimated Jeff Stewart, director of the Immigrant Worker Project in Canton.
“Many of them have gone on and done degrees at universities and are working for major companies in the area,” Stewart said. “Those companies are going to be affected by the loss of those very bright young people who came here not of their own volition. The vast majority were brought by their parents when they were very small.”
Stewart said he spent Tuesday fielding calls from individuals and families the DACA decision affects. It was unfortunate and cruel, but not unexpected, that the administration curtailed a program for youths who are “more citizens of the United States than of any of their home countries,” he said.
“Congress has six months to figure this out, and everybody on both sides of the aisle has been saying this is a population that should be helped and assisted, that does not deserve to suffer for decisions they were not old enough to make,” Stewart said. “So, now’s the time to act and for legislation to go through Congress.”
Trump’s announcement invalidated an executive order President Barack Obama ordered in 2012 called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That action, expanded in 2014, was met with sharp from Republicans who insisted Obama had no constitutional authority to permit the immigrants to remain in the country.
“Today’s announcement puts the power back with Congress, where it belongs,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington. “Congress has six months to take action to create a permanent, legal and orderly immigration system, which includes addressing DACA recipients.”
Calling the program “one of the most egregious examples of his executive overreach,” Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said the six-month window for Congress to act is “an opportunity for us to identify needed solutions that are fair and orderly for Dreamers who didn’t choose to break our laws and know no other home than America.”
“As the son of immigrants who legally came to the United States from Italy, I have seen the success story of legal immigration firsthand,” he said. “In order to ensure this country remains a beacon of hope we must adhere to the Constitution, which empowers Congress to write immigration laws, not the executive branch.”
Trump, in a written statement, said while new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration, up to two years from Tuesday. Trump said all submitted applications will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration.
“This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase-out,” Trump said.
Hours after Trump announced his decision to rescind Obama’s executive action, Obama sent out a rare statement saying the issue was “about basic decency.”
“This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated,” he said, adding that while both parties have worked to keep those brought over illegally in the U.S., Congress never sent him a bill.
According to the left–leaning For Ohio’s Future Action Fund, some 4,400 young people in the state are here under the program. Interfaith Worker Justice, a group fighting for to keep the program, says the state would lose more than $251.6 million annually in state gross domestic product if the state’s 3,865 “Dreamers” who work leave the workforce.
Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from the Gahanna area, said, “The Dreamers are committed to making America great and are law-abiding, patriotic, innocent young people contributing to their community. ... Now is the time for Republicans and Democrats to do what is right, as opposed to green-lighting President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
The decision also spurred several Ohio colleges and universities to urge Ohio lawmakers to act.
Ohio State University said it sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation urging “swift action to find a bipartisan solution that will, at a minimum, codify existing DACA policy into law.”
The university said it’s reviewing Tuesday’s announcement and its potential affect at Ohio State.
Denison University President Adam Weinberg joined presidents at Kenyon College, Oberlin College, the College of Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan University in urging U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown to uphold the provisions of DACA and to “take legislative action to move beyond executive order to a law ensuring its continuation.”
“A permanent path forward for these students, American in all but legal status, secures their education and the valuable role they play on our campuses today and in Ohio and the world tomorrow,” the letter read.