President Trump said Wednesday that he’ll make the final decision on whether to defend President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty for Dreamers, and said he wished Congress would pass “a comprehensive immigration plan” — though he said the country’s not ready for that.
The call for a “comprehensive” bill was a stunning remark from Mr. Trump, who during the campaign had said he wanted to see a crackdown on illegal immigration. Comprehensive immigration reform is the description used by advocates who want to see most illegal immigrants legalized, with a full pathway to citizenship.
“What I’d like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet,” Mr. Trump said.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to France, Mr. Trump was asked about the 2012 program known as DACA, which is currently protecting some 780,000 young adult illegal immigrants. Mr. Obama created the program but Mr. Trump and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly have kept it going — despite questions about its legality.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that if Mr. Trump doesn’t revoke the program by September, he’ll challenge DACA as part of a lawsuit that already halted DAPA, Mr. Obama’s broader 2014 amnesty. Legal analysts say that they can’t see DACA surviving a challenge in a world where DAPA has already been ruled likely illegal.
Mr. Kelly, speaking to Hispanic members of Congress on Wednesday, had said he doubted DACA could withstand legal scrutiny but said the final decision was up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mr. Trump said, though, that he’ll make it.
“It’s a decision that I make and it’s a decision that’s very very hard to make. I really understand the situation now,” he said.
He added, “There are two sides of a story. It’s always tough.”
Immigrant-rights groups say the DACA program has been a major success, saying it’s helped illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents and grew up here to have a chance in the U.S. economy.
Activists are demanding Mr. Trump fight the program in court, despite the legal obstacles, saying it’s a major test of his presidency.
“This is a moment of truth, and history has its eyes on us,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.