President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program that protected younger undocumented immigrants from deportation was sharply criticized by various Arlington leaders today.
Trump announced his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months to give Congress time to act and find an alternative plan through legislation.
The program protects some children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents from immediate deportation, and instead allows them a renewable two-year deferral and eligibility for a work permit. It is estimated that 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16., also known as “Dreamers,” have been shielded from deportation by DACA.
Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County, criticized the decision as an “act of malice.”
“President Trump’s decision to end DACA and begin deporting our Dreamers betrays nearly one million young people who grew up with this country as their own and made so many contributions to it,” Beyer said in a statement. “This act of malice will tear apart hundreds of thousands of American families and inflict serious economic damage on the country. Congress has no choice but to act immediately, and it should begin consideration of the American Hope Act to protect Dreamers.”
Bishop Michael Burbidge, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington since December, said in a statement he is “disheartened” by the decision to end DACA:
I join my voice with those who are disheartened by the news that President Trump will rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Standing with my brother Bishops, I urge Congress and the President to enact legislation that will safeguard those currently protected by this important program.
While the issue of immigration is complicated — and our government has many considerations to balance in responding to the influx of those who seek safety, and personal and economic security in our country — offering special protection to those who only know the United States as home is a reasonable measure of compassion.
This news is undoubtedly troubling for the hundreds of thousands approved through DACA. I ask all Catholics and people of good will in the Diocese of Arlington to keep these individuals, as well as our government officials, in prayer. May we as a country be considerate of our neighbors and defend those whom we have offered protection and safe harbor.
U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Trump’s decision could have enormous economic repercussions too, and urged Congress to act quickly.
In a statement, Warner said:
The DACA program was a promise to protect certain children of undocumented immigrants, who came to this country through no fault of their own, so they could safely come out of the shadows, attain legal status and realize their full potential. Over the years, the DREAMers have shown us their true character–working hard to become this nation’s next generation of students, entrepreneurs, and military men and women. And while Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive immigration reform that provides them with a fair path to citizenship, which the Senate passed in 2013, we cannot let the Trump Administration’s disgraceful anti-immigrant policies leave nearly 800,000 DREAMers in limbo. Going back on our word threatens their safety, harms our economy and speaks volumes about who we are as a country.
Kaine said in a statement:
President Trump has made a heartless decision to target hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States through no fault of their own, breaking his promise that these ‘incredible kids’ could ‘rest easy’ and putting them at risk for being torn away from their families. In Virginia, 12,000 of these Dreamers are neighbors, friends, and students who just want the opportunity to contribute to their communities and our economy. Today’s action will force DACA recipients back into the shadows and put them in danger of being deported from the only home they’ve ever known. Congress should immediately pass the bipartisan DREAM Act to protect these kids and then find an agreement on long-overdue, comprehensive immigration reform.
And Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) criticized Trump for pandering to “extremists on the far right-wing of his party.” In a statement, McAuliffe also urged the President to work with Congress on comprehensive immigration reform:
President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA is a heartless attack on 800,000 young people who were brought here by their parents at a young age. It will plunge families, communities, businesses, and schools into terrible uncertainty for no reason other than to keep a political promise to extremists on the far right-wing of his party. DREAMers are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, fellow taxpayers and the people who serve in the military to protect us. An attack on them is an attack on the fabric of our nation.
Today’s decision will not make America great again – it will damage our economy, make us less safe and even further diminish our nation’s standing as a leader on the world stage. As the Governor of a state where DREAMers make a significant contribution, I urge President Trump to reconsider this terrible decision and work with congress to pass real immigration reform that will bring these young people out of the shadows for good.