On Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA.
DACA has protected nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the US as children from deportation since 2012, when it was instituted by President Barack Obama. The program allowed them to work legally in the US. But a group of Republican state attorneys general threatened to sue the Trump administration if the program, which they view as executive overreach, continued, effectively giving Trump a Tuesday deadline to decide what to do with the program.
During his remarks Tuesday, Sessions criticized DACA as illegal: “The executive branch through DACA 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.”
Below is a rush transcript of Sessions’s remarks on the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA:
Good morning. I'm here to announce the program known as DACA, that was set under the Obama administration, is being rescinded. The DACA program was implemented in 2012 and essentially provided a legal status for recipients for a renewable two-year term, worker authorization, and other benefits, including participation in the social security program to 800,000 mostly adult illegal aliens. It was implemented unilaterally with controversy and concern after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens.
In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, 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 effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the Southern border with humanitarian consequences.
It denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs. We inherited from our founders and have advanced an unsurpassed legal heritage, which is a foundation of our freedom, our safety, and our prosperity.
As attorney general, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the constitutional order is upheld. No greater good for the overall health and well-being of our republic than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law. Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed. Where they are subject to political whims and biases are afflicted by corruption, poverty, and human suffering.
To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It's just that simple. That is an open-borders policy, and the American people have rightly rejected that.
Therefore, the nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year, and that means all cannot be accepted. This does not mean they are bad people, or our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are enforcing our laws as Congress passed them. It is with these principles and duties in mind, and in light of imminent litigation, that we reviewed the Obama administration's DACA policy.
Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the court recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision that was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Fifth Circuit specifically concluded that DACA had not been implemented in a fashion that allows sufficient discretion, and that DAPA was “foreclosed by Congress's careful plan.”
The immigration law that Congress passed foreclosed this and consistent with the separation of powers. That decision was affirmed by the supreme court on an equally undivided basis. If we keep the Obama administration's executive amnesty policy, the likeliest outcome is it would, too, be enjoined as was DAPA.
The department of justice advised the president and the Department of Homeland Security that the Department of Homeland Security should begin an orderly, lawful wind down including the cancelation of the memo that authorized this program.
Acting Secretary [Elaine] Duke has chosen to initiate a wind-down process. This will enable the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act should it so choose.
We firmly believe this is the responsible path. 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 overreach. George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley was clear about the constitutional affirmatives raised by this action.
He said, quote, in his testimony, in ordering this blanket exception, President Obama was nullifying part of a law that he simply disagreed with. If a president can claim sweeping discretion to suspend key federal laws, the entire legislative process becomes little more than a pretense.
The circumvention of the legislative process undermines the authority of this branch, the legislative branch, but destabilized the tripartite system as a whole. This is not a little matter. Ending the previous administration’s disrespect for the legislative process is an important first step. All immigration policies should serve the interest of the people of the United States. Lawful immigrant and native born alike.
Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reform that are right for the American people. Our nation is comprised of good and decent people who want government leaders to fulfill promises in advance immigration policy that serves the national interest.
We are people of compassion and we are people of law. There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence, and terrorism.
The compassionate thing to do is end the law, enforce our laws, and, if Congress chooses to make changes to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our founders, in a way that advances the interest of the American people. That is what the president promised to do and has delivered to the American people.
Under President Trump's leadership, this administration has made great progress in the past few months toward establishing a lawful and constitutional immigration system. This makes us safer and more secure.
It will further economically the lives of million who is are struggling and it will enable our country to more effectively teach new immigrants about our system of government and to assimilate them to the cultural understandings that support the substantial progress in reducing illegal immigration and the border seen in recent months is almost entirely due to the leadership of President Trump and his inspired immigration officers.
But the problem is not yet solved. Without more action, we could see illegality rise again rather than be eliminated. As a candidate and now in office, President Trump offered specific ideas and legislative solution that is will protect American workers, increase wages and salaries, defend the national security, ensure the public safety, and increase the general well-being of the American people. He has worked closely with many members of Congress, including in the introduction of the RAISE Act, which would produce enormous benefits for our country.
This is how our democratic process works. There are many groups in the country. Many have a constitutional right to advocate their views and represent whomever they choose. The Department of Justice does not represent any narrow interest of any subset of the American people. We represent all the American people and protect the integrity of our constitution. That is our charge. We, at the Department of Justice, are proud and honored to work and advance this vision for America and to do our best each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people. Thank you very much.