Former US president Barack Obama has decried his successor Donald Trump’s decision to end an amnesty for 800,000 people brought to America illegally as children, calling it “wrong,” “self-defeating” and “cruel.” “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. And it is cruel,” he said in a statement yesterday hours after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been rescinded.
“What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbour turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?” Obama questioned. He said the move was not “required legally”, while terming it a “political decision”.
Trump scrapped the Obama-era amnesty programme that granted work permits to immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children, a move likely to impact 800,000 undocumented workers including more than 7,000 Indian-Americans. “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.
“They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages,” Obama said.
He said it is precisely because this action is contrary to the American 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. “And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to the Congress, it’s up to members of the Congress 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,” he added.
The announcement by the Trump administration, which was anticipated for the past few days, was greeted with protests from across the country. India ranks 11th among countries of origin for DACA students, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics available till March 31, 2017.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House demonstrating against Trump. The former US president said opposing the decision will determine “we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”
Obama said the Trump administration’s decision on DACA is not about fixing the immigration system. “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 said.
“Over the years, politicians of both parties (Democrats and Republicans) have worked together to write legislations that would have told these young people, our young people, that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship,” he said.
Obama claimed that during his tenure as the US president he had asked the Congress to send him such a bill but it could never be done.