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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Trump expected to end 'Dreamers' programme

The US president's decision, expected on Tuesday, would end protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children

Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) recipient, shouts with supporters of the programme during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on September 1, 2017. Kyle Grillot / Reuters
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) recipient, shouts with supporters of the programme during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on September 1, 2017. Kyle Grillot / Reuters

US president Donald Trump is expected to announce that he will end protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, but with a six-month delay, people familiar with the plans have said.

The delay in the formal dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme would be intended to give Congress time to decide whether it wants to address the status of the so-called "Dreamers" in legislation, according to two people familiar with the president's thinking. But it was not immediately clear how the six-month delay would work in practice and what would happen to people who currently have work permits under the programme, or whose permits expire during the six-month stretch.

It was also unclear exactly what would happen if Congress failed to pass a measure by the considered deadline.

The president has been known to change his mind in the past and could still shift course ahead of the planned Tuesday announcement. The plan was first reported by Politico on Sunday evening.

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Mr Trump has been wrestling for months with what to do with the Obama-era Daca programme, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the form of two-year, renewable work permits.

The expected move would come as the White House faces a Tuesday deadline set by Republican state officials who are threatening to continue to sue the Trump administration if the president does not end the programme. It would also come as Mr Trump digs in on appeals to his base as he finds himself increasingly under fire, with his poll numbers hanging at near-record lows.

Mr Trump had been personally torn as late as last week over how to deal with the Dreamers. Though illegal immigrants, many came to the US as young children and have no memories of or connections to the countries they were born in.

During his campaign, Mr Trump slammed Daca as illegal "amnesty" and vowed to eliminate the programme the day he took office. But since his election, he has wavered on the issue, at one point even telling The Associated Press that those covered could "rest easy".

Mr Trump had been unusually candid as he wrestled with the decision in the early months of his administration. During a February press conference, he said the topic was "a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficulty subjects I have".

"You have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly," he said. adding: "I love these kids."

All the while, his administration continued to process applications and renew Daca work permits, to the dismay of immigration hard-liners.

News of the president's expected decision appeared to anger advocates on both sides of the issue.

"IF REPORTS ARE TRUE, Pres Trump better prepare for the civil rights fight of his admin. A clean DREAM Act is now a Nat Emergency #DefendDACA," tweeted New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat.

But representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has called Daca unconstitutional, warned a delay in dismantling the programme would amount to "Republican suicide."

"Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide," he wrote.

It would be up to congressional lawmakers to pass a measure to protect those who have been covered under the programme. While there is considerable support for that prospect among Democrats and moderate Republicans, Congress is already facing a packed fall agenda and has had a poor track record in recent years in passing immigration-related bills.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, and a number of other legislators urged Mr Trump last week to hold off on scrapping Daca to give them time to come up with a legislative fix.

"These are kids who know no other country, who are brought here by their parents and don't know another home. And so I really do believe that there needs to be a legislative solution," he said.

The Obama administration created Daca in 2012 as a stopgap to protect some young immigrants from deportation as they pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress.

The programme protected people who were in the country illegally if they could prove they arrived before they were 16, had been in the US for several years and had not committed a crime while being here. It mimicked versions of the so-called Dream Act, which would have provided legal status for young immigrants but was never passed by Congress.

As of July 31, 2015, more than 790,000 young immigrants had been approved under the programme, according to US citizenship and immigration services.