Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday slammed Donald Trump for rolling back protections for the nearly one million immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a move that will dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The announcement, brought forth by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prompted strong words from Obama, who said he would refrain from speaking out regularly in his life as a private citizen. But news that Trump would indeed rescind DACA and possibly use DREAMers as a bargaining chip to build a wall around the border brought the former president out of silence.
“To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post. “It is self-defeating — because they want to start new business, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel.”
He continued, calling into question the legality of the decision:
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us,” he wrote.
“Ultimately, this is 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. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.”
Calling on Congress to act, Obama once again lent his support to DACA recipients and Americans who choose to stand with them.
“I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel,” he wrote.
After Congress failed to issue comprehensive immigration reform in 2012, Obama brought forth DACA in what he called a “temporary stopgap” to protect the children of immigrants who came to this country from deportation. Trump — whose campaign was rooted in demonizing immigrants in this country, painting them as rapists and criminals — has been vocal about curbing immigration, vowing to build a wall and deport those who come to this country “illegally.”
Rescinding the policy appears to be Trump’s first step in obtaining ground to build the wall he promised during his campaign. According to Think Progress, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that DACA recipients could be used as a bargaining chip in Trump’s play to move his plan forward.
“The president is hoping to work with Congress on responsible immigration reform,” Sanders said. “We can’t just have one tweak to the immigration system, we need really big fixes and big reform in this process, and we’ve laid out the principles that we feel are important in that.”