A top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said Friday that President Donald Trump has instructed the agency to revise its guidelines around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with the aim of forcing lawmakers to negotiate a lasting, legal solution to the problem of people who entered the United States illegally as children.
“This morning he gave us the instruction—the Department of Homeland Security—redo the guidelines to wind down DACA, and that is intended, it will have the practical effect of forcing this back into Congress’ hands, where it always belonged in the first place,” said Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, in an interview Friday on Fox News.
Cuccinelli said Trump has long sought a lasting, legal solution to the vexing issue of the so-called “Dreamers” program, as DACA is also known. The program was put in place via executive order by President Barack Obama, and currently some 649,000 immigrants are enrolled. Obama signed the order in 2012 following failed immigration reform negations on Capitol Hill. Many conservatives, including Trump, have argued DACA is unconstitutional, although the president has expressed sympathy for the Dreamers’ plight and has indicated openness to a negotiated, bipartisan solution.
“He was always willing to talk and to negotiate and to try and solve this problem legally … within the boundaries of the law and the Constitution—that’s President Trump’s approach to this,” Cuccinelli told Fox News in the interview. He claimed Democrats have dragged their feet on a permanent solution for political gain.
“For a decade, the left has been playing politics with these peoples’ lives. It was the president—President Trump—who was willing to try and solve this problem and it was Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi who walked away because they thought they’d get an advantage in the 2018 elections and people should remember that as we now move out of a court case, are they going to come back to the table?” Cuccinelli said.
The DHS official’s remarks come after the Supreme Court ruled Thursday to block Trump’s 2017 move to rescind DACA on procedural grounds.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in an opinion (pdf), referring to the DHS.
Trump’s decision to end the program in 2017 was met with fierce opposition. Multiple federal courts ruled against the move to end DACA, with some federal judges ruling that Trump could not terminate the program and ordering U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to continue accepting and adjudicating on DACA renewal applications.
The Trump administration has called DACA unlawful and an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch. Trump previously said that the winding down of DACA would be a gradual process, which would provide Congress a “window of opportunity” to act on the issue.
Shortly after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling was issued, Trump responded in a statement on Twitter by characterizing the top court’s recent decisions as “horrible” and “politically charged.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a briefing on Friday that the Trump administration will find a “compassionate” way to deal with Dreamers.
“We’re going to move forward in a responsible way and cure some of the remedies and the unlawfulness that we see with the previous memo that brought DACA into place,” she said, adding, “but we want to find a compassionate way to do this.”
Janita Kan contributed to this report.