U.S. Attorney General Sessions announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump is ending DACA and giving a gridlocked Congress six months to decide what happens to the 800,000-plus young people who were brought into the U.S. as children and allowed to remain.
Sessions made the announced from the Justice Department, criticizing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program an overreach, describing it as "executive amnesty" instituted by the previous administration.
"I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded," Sessions told reporters.
The program, created by Democratic former President Barack Obama, is supported by Democrats and many business leaders. The Trump administration said no current beneficiaries of the program would be affected before March 5.
Sessions said the action does not mean the DACA recipients are "bad people."
"To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It's just that simple. That would be an open-border policy and the American people have rightly rejected that," Sessions said.
Most of the immigrants protected by DACA, dubbed "Dreamers," came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Trump's action, deferring the actual end of the program, effectively kicks responsibility for the fate of the Dreamers to his fellow Republicans who control Congress. But Congress has been unable since the president took office in January to pass any major legislation and has been bitterly divided over immigration in the past.
Obama bypassed Congress and created DACA through an executive order.
Trump appeared determined to pressure U.S. lawmakers to act. "Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!" the president wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning before the policy announcement was made.
There were some signs that Congress might be willing to act, with a number of senior Republican lawmakers coming forward to express an interest in protecting the Dreamers.
The president's decision may have been forced by nine Republican state attorneys general, led by Texas, who had threatened a legal challenge in federal court if Trump did not act to end DACA. A number of Democratic state attorneys general have threatened legal action to defend the program.
The move comes after a long and notably public deliberation. Despite campaigning as an immigration hardliner, Trump has said he is sympathetic to the plight of the immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and in some cases have no memories of the countries they were born in.
But such an approach is fraught with uncertainty and political perils that amount, according to one vocal opponent, to "Republican suicide."
But Congress has repeatedly tried — and failed — to come together on immigration overhaul legislation, and it remains uncertain whether the House would succeed in passing anything on the divisive topic.
The House, under Democratic control, passed a Dream Act in 2010, but it died in the Senate. Since Republicans retook control of the House in late 2010, it has taken an increasingly hard line on immigration. House Republicans refused to act on the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. Two years later, a GOP border security bill languished because of objections from conservatives.
This report contains material from Reuters and The Associated Press.
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