President Donald Trump is walking a fine line between fulfilling key campaign promises and confronting the optics of deporting children.
At his first solo press conference Thursday, the president displayed serious hesitation with the prospect of deporting the children of illegal immigrants — despite a repeated, iron-clad campaign pledge to end President Obama’s executive amnesties.
Immigration today, if you listen to the Left, equals anybody who wants to come into the country should be allowed. That’s not what immigration is. That’s illegal immigration.
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Trump also realizes the danger of letting down some of his most vocal supporters and immigration hawks, the people who swept him into office and helped him win two Rust Belt states not won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Trump’s aides are working on plans to end a controversial amnesty program for illegal immigrants, brought here as children, without getting the same backlash as Trump’s controversial “travel ban.”
Trump is aware his supporters are impatient to see the two Obama-era amnesties ended. Trump was asked about his next immigration plans at Thursday’s conference. The reporter added she was curious about any coming actions on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an executive order imposed by Obama in June 2012.
The program allows illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a two-year period of deferred action from deportation, as well as eligibility for a work permit. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, recipients of this DACA amnesty have to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and had to have come to the United States before reaching his or her 16th birthday. There are a number of other guidelines for these recipients, known popularly as “Dreamers.”
The potentially heavy political cost of deporting illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States through no fault of their own appears to weigh heavily on Trump.
“We’re going to show great heart,” Trump told reporters. “DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids.
In many cases, not in all cases. And some of the cases, having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug dealers too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way — it’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject.”
While Trump is seen as having rushed through too soon a draft of an executive order on accepting refugees and visitors from seven troubled nations in Africa and the Middle East, he is showing mysterious caution on Obama’s two executive amnesties. (A second program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — or DAPA — has been frozen in court for almost two years, after states sued to block the order.)
The delay in repealing DACA and DAPA has caught the attention of some of Trump’s top supporters, people who have been waiting for decades for a president who wanted to crack down on illegal immigration.
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On Jan. 23, only days after Trump was sworn in, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies wrote in a blog post that he was curious as to why Trump had not simply waved his pen, and revoked the DACA and DAPA programs, which are opposed by immigration watchdogs.
“I did not expect was for Trump to break an explicit promise regarding his headline issue on the administration’s first business day in office,” Krikorian wrote. “But that may be what’s happened.”
It’s now clear Trump’s White House are nervous about appearing heartless.
“We’re gonna deal with DACA with heart,” Trump told reporters. “But the DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids, I love kids, I have kids and grandkids . . . But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more. But we’re tailoring it now to the decision, we have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it.”
Krikorian noted that Trump was explicit in denouncing Trump’s amnesties on the 2016 campaign trail.
“We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants,” Trump said in Phoenix last year.
Trump’s aides have drafted the order to repeal DACA, but it remains idle on the Oval Office desk, according to the Los Angeles Times. The other options to kill DACA, without involving Trump, would be a lawsuit brought by states, or new legal guidance that details who is a priority for deportation, according to the Times.
Since DACA took effect, there are about 750,000 people who got work permits through DACA. About 800 people are signing up for every day, according to Krikorian.
Meanwhile, Trump’s top supporters are still talking about the issue of illegal immigration, more than four weeks after he took office, indicating the still-red-hot nature of the issue.
“We’ve even lost the definition of ‘immigration,”’ said Rush Limbaugh, speaking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. “Immigration today, if you listen to the Left, equals anybody who wants to come into the country should be allowed. That’s not what immigration is. That’s illegal immigration. And we ought to all oppose it.”