Former President Barack Obama expressed great disappointment at President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and called the move "self-defeating" and "cruel."
Just hours after Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DACA program would be rescinded, Obama took to Facebook and penned a lengthy essay about immigration, which he called a "controversial topic."
What Obama said
Addressing Dreamers, Obama said that despite their immigration status, they are "Americans in their hearts, in their minds," and in "every single way but one: on paper."
He said that ending DACA will negatively impact many young people in the U.S., and noted that in some cases, "they often have no idea they're undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver's license."
Obama noted that, as a result of the Trump administration's decision to end DACA, a "shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people."
"To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong," the former president wrote. "It is self-defeating — because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?"
Obama said that today's decision isn't a legal requirement, but instead 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 said. "They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance."
He later added, "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."
"What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray," Obama concluded. "What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals — that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union."
Before leaving office in January, Obama promised that he would be vocal should DACA be rescinded.
"The notion that we would just arbitrarily or because of politics punish those kids, when they didn't do anything wrong themselves, I think would be something that would merit me speaking out," Obama told reporters during his final news conference.
The decision to rescind DACA came after months of political dialogue and public debate about the Obama-era program.
Trump on Tuesday tweeted, "Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!"
Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
Shortly after Trump's tweet, Sessions declared from the Department of Justice, "I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded."
DACA granted two-year work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. Nearly 800,000 nationwide are recipients of DACA.
A caveat to ending DACA stipulated that Congress would have six months to present legislation to shore up the program, or provide some kind of legal status to Dreamers, but noted that the Department of Homeland Security would stop processing new applications for the program effective immediately.
DACA recipients will begin losing their quasi-legal status effective March 5 in the event that Congress does not move to protect Dreamers' provisos for legal protection.