Elected officials in New Mexico slammed Trump administration plans to end a program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country, who were brought to the country as children and do not have documentation.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday.
The Department of Homeland Security will no longer process new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after Sept. 5. The administration will, however, says it will continue to renew permits for any of those currently under DACA, known as DREAMers, for another six months.
DACA benefits can be valid for two years from their issuance, according to the U.S Department of Homeland Security.
Once a DACA recipient’s status expires, he or she will be deported.
Congress can act to make the program permanent, and Trump appeared to endorse this on Tuesday by tweeting, “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”
The program was enacted five years ago under President Barack Obama through an executive order. Ten attorneys general, from conservative states, threatened to sue to stop the program. Sessions had said he could not defend the program and believed it to be unconstitutional.
Trump said Obama made “an end-run around Congress” when filing the executive order.
He also said he told DHS that “DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang.”
But DACA recipients with criminal records have already had their status rescinded.
Trump’s decision drew widespread condemnation from advocates and politicians from New Mexico and nationwide.
State Attorney General Hector Balderas said on MSNBC that DACA recipients are “just as legal as Melania Trump,” referring to the wife of President Donald Trump. The Associated Press reported in 2016 that Melania Trump worked as a model in the United States before receiving a work visa. Melania Trump became a U.S. citizen in 2006.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called the decision a “heartless and grave mistake.”
“In the five years since its implementation, DACA has changed the lives of many of our brightest students and veterans who have come out of the shadows to earn an education, contribute to our economy, and give back to their communities and their country,” the Democrat said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján also slammed the decision.
“Since 2012, the 9,000 DREAMers in New Mexico have not had to live in fear of deportation,” Luján said. “If the Trump administration moves ahead with this mean-spirited attempt to repeal DACA, those young people and their families will once again risk being torn apart.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, the congressional delegation’s lone Republican, criticized the immigration system as a whole and expressed support for addressing the situation through legislation instead of an executive order.
“We in New Mexico understand the harmful and damaging effects that temporary patchwork solutions to our nation’s immigration system can have on families,” Pearce said. “This kind of flawed reform fails to provide certainty and leaves millions with an illusion of hope. Since arriving in Congress, I have fought to make reforms to our nation’s immigration policies so that the system is fair and just for all. The truth is, the current DACA program is a short-term solution that does not achieve these goals. It is only a temporary fix for millions of young adults who have only ever known the United States as home.”
Pearce said he will continue to work on a “permanent change for DREAMers.”
Gov. Susana Martinez’s office echoed other Republicans in blaming Obama for the situation.
“We wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with if President Obama hadn’t failed to deliver on his promise to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform,” spokesman Joseph Cueto said in an email Tuesday afternoon. “That being said, it is wrong to punish these children and this demands congressional action. No president has the authority to unilaterally decide immigration law and this sadly demonstrates the human consequences. ”
Attempts to address the DACA recipients through legislation have largely failed over the past few years.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall criticize the pending decision last week, saying that 9,000 New Mexicans under the program have benefited.
“These young people came to our country as children, and today, they are working and going to school to become teachers, doctors, engineers,” the Democrat said. “They are making our country stronger – reneging on our promise to them now is hurtful and wrong, not to mention a disaster for our economy.”
U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, reiterated her support for DACA last week after meeting with recipients of the program.
“I am reminded of how valuable they are to our community,” Lujan Grisham said. “We can’t forget about the parents, either. I met parents today who sacrificed to escape violence and move to New Mexico in search of opportunities for their young boys.”
Update: Added a statement from a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez.