Attorney Jeff Sessions announced earlier today the Trump administration will formally end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era policy that has made it possible for nearly 800,000 undocumented children of immigrants to live, work, go to school, or serve in the American military without fear of deportation.
Dozens of tech giants including Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook and thousands of concerned Americans have already condemned the act, and now former president Barack Obama (who enacted the controversial policy in 2012) is weighing in via an impassioned Facebook post.
Right off the bat, Obama acknowledges that immigration is “controversial topic” because it’s often incorrectly viewed as the antithesis of keeping our country safe, but he makes the important distinction that what the current administration did today isn’t exactly about safer, more secure borders.
“This is about young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” he declares. “They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”
A key tenet of the current administration’s argument against DACA rests in the fact that Obama passed it via an executive order back in 2012, per CNN, as opposed to seeking bipartisan congressional approval. Obama addresses that in the post, arguing Congress never sent him a bill that would have protected DACA recipients permanently, so he did what was well within his powers as president to do: safeguard them as best he could.
“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,” he writes. “And it is cruel.”
The former commander-In-chief also makes it abundantly clear the current administration was in no way legally bound to end DACA, despite threats from a few attorneys general. Instead, he calls it a “political decision, and a moral question,” adding, “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.”
For these "dreamers", today could be a nightmare. (President Obama meeting with undocumented immigrants who were brought to US as young kids and raised as Americans. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program–DACA–800,000 young people have been allowed to receive two-year work permits and are protected from deportation. Recipients have to undergo a background check and certify they have not been convicted of any crimes.)
And though Obama acknowledged Congress failed to adequately defend DACA recipients during his administration, he’s now calling on the powerful legislative body to “protect these young people and our future.”
“I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my 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,” the father of two adds.
Obama concluded his post by recalling the founding principle of our nation.
“What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation,” he writes. “That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.”
Since leaving office in Januar, Obama has largely stayed out of the political fray, but this poignant post to the American people echoes a similarly moving missive he crafted after the GOP moved to repeal the Affordable Care Act in June. “The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” he said at the time. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.”
In response, thousands of people thanked the former President for the ACA. It may be that his words this time around will encourage Americans to contact their members of Congress and ask them to protect undocumented immigrants.