In case you haven’t heard, President Donald Trump and his Justice Department have moved to terminate a program shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Here in Maryland, the response has been mostly critical.
Mayor Catherine Pugh issued a statement today saying she is “very disappointed” to hear about the end of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The decision on DACA threatens to separate thousands of young professionals and students from their home while hurting our country’s economy,” the mayor said. “I urge Congress to act quickly and pass legislation that would provide a permanent solution for DACA recipients. Baltimore stands with the thousands of Dreamers and their families who live and work in our city.”
The economic effect that Pugh referenced remains to be seen in Maryland, but Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh estimates the state stands to lose out on more than $509 million in annual GDP.
“Our country has already invested in these DREAMers – the next generation of teachers, skilled workers, and business owners – and we must find a way to continue that commitment. Turning our backs on them is the wrong choice,” Frosh said in a statement, adding at the end, “My office is evaluating all potential options to protect these DREAMers and their families.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen condemned Trump’s move as “taking our country backwards.” Baltimore native Rep. Elijah Cummings called it “cruel and heartless.”
As usual, Republican Rep. Andy Harris – the state’s lone Republican in Congress – stood apart from his Democratic colleagues. He indicated in a statement that he supports the change, though he framed his words around the issue of presidential power: “The Obama-era policy is a gross overreach of executive power and undermined the authority of the legislative branch. President Trump is returning that power to Congress.”
President Obama created DACA by executive order in 2012, only after he couldn’t guarantee enough Democratic votes from members of Congress to withstand a filibuster in the Senate. The policy gives people who arrived in the United States illegally as children – known as DREAMers – two-year extensions to remain in the United for as long as they can receive a work permit. The policy today grandfathers in more than 800,000 immigrants in the country, which speaks to some of the criticism about the economic impact of its removal.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke first on Tuesday, announcing that his department found Obama’s program to be unconstitutional because it was issued by executive order, rather than passed by Congress. Trump piggybacked off of that rationale, saying in a statement, “The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws.”
The president did offer Congress a chance to preserve the program by passing a bill to make it federal policy within six months. He also said it should be done as part of a broader immigration reform effort that would include a merit-based green card system, and likely his proposed Mexico-funded border wall.
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