Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he’d be “winding down” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was deeply unsettling for many participants. Under the terms of DACA, those in the program (part of a group of people who immigrated to the United States illegally as children) were able to live and work in the country without the fear of deportation. If DACA isn’t continued by an act of Congress within six months, the lives that those “dreamers” (as they’re known) have created in the five years since the program was enacted will suddenly have the foundation removed. Without the protection of DACA, they could be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at any moment and removed from the country.
The message of Trump’s tweet? No need to worry about that.
At least, not over the next six months. But the tweet appears to be another example of Trump trying to both appeal to his base by ending DACA and still trying to appear sympathetic to the group that he has repeatedly said he “loves” — including on Tuesday afternoon.
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the plan to end DACA, the White House issued a statement, ostensibly from Trump himself, which presented the argument that apparently motivated the decision. It was not a statement that centered on pushing Congress to replace DACA over the next six months or making the case for a more robust policy from Congress. It was a statement about how DACA should not have been implemented in the way that it was and that the program itself encouraged illegal immigration and hurt American workers. (That’s not really the case.) It was not, in other words, a statement sympathetic to either the program or its participants.
On Tuesday evening, news outlets obtained talking points that were sent to Republicans to defend Trump’s decision. Included in the verbiage:
“The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.”
The administration agrees with Trump’s tweet to the extent that DACA recipients don’t need to worry about deportation for the next six months — but that time should be used to prepare for deportation either by themselves or the government shortly thereafter.
This is the same president, mind you, who said in February that he’d deal with the dreamers “with heart” — and whose Department of Homeland Security in April deported someone who was participating in the DACA program.
Trump and Pelosi are asking DACA recipients to trust the word of Trump over the actions of his administration. That’s ill-advised. Our David Nakamura made that divide obvious in a response to the president’s tweet.
Trump’s word changes at the drop of a hat. His administration, however, has been consistent in its focus.