Former President Barack Obama has remained relatively quiet as President Donald Trump has worked to undo his legacy on things like health care and justice reforms. But on Tuesday as the Trump administration announced it would be ending Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the former president spoke out.
“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. 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,” Obama said in a statement. “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?”
DACA, which was put in place by the Obama administration in 2012, allows people who were brought to the U.S. as minors to remain in the country without fear of deportation. They can work and attend school legally. Trump had threatened to the end the program in keeping with his harsh stance on immigration, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday DACA will be phased out on a six-month delay. That time is intended to allow Congress to write a bill that would allow program recipients to remain.
Obama said in his statement he enacted DACA because Congress had been unable to legislate immigration reform.
Although former presidents typically keep a low profile once out of office as a sign of respect to their successors, Obama had made clear during his last White House press conference he would speak out if he felt Trump were doing anything that threatened the country’s “core values.”
“I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else,” Obama said in January, a clear reference to DACA. “When they love this country, they are our kids, friends, and classmates, and are now entering into community colleges and in some places serving in our military.”
He said allowing DREAMers to remain in the U.S. was “about basic decency.”
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question,” Obama said. “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.”
Read the full statement here: