Former President Barack Obama blasted President Trump Tuesday as “cruel” for his decision to rescind Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty program for young illegal immigrants.
“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Injecting himself into the political arena to the greatest degree since leaving office in January, Mr. Obama said Mr. Trump’s action was unnecessary from a legal standpoint.
“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s a political decision, and a moral question. It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today.”
Mr. Obama created the DACA program in 2012, saying Congress had failed to pass immigration reform and that protections were needed to shield from deportation young illegal immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr. Obama created DACA after Congress rejected the same proposal as legislation.
“In other words, President Obama didn’t just suspend federal law, but implemented a policy Congress had explicitly rejected,” she said.
Mr. Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that Mr. Obama’s action was an illegal end-run around Congress, and that the executive branch can’t make law.
Mr. Trump also has cast his decision as an effort to protect jobs for American citizens and to bolster the economy.
Mr. Obama said the young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers “are not taking anything away from the rest of us.”
“Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages,” Mr. Obama said.
Saying now it’s up to Congress, Mr. Obama said he is lending his voice “with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.”
Addressing the Trump administration’s argument that his action was illegal, Mr. Obama said he created the program because “it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents.”
“My administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country,” Mr. Obama said. “We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm.”
He added, “Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.”