Key U.S. lawmakers and business leaders are calling for Congress to enact legislation to protect 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported, after President Donald Trump moved to end a program that allowed them to stay in the United States to study, work and serve in the military years after their parents illegally brought them into the country.
Speaker Paul Ryan, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said he hoped that Congress "with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”
Ryan said the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) created by former President Barack Obama, "however well-intentioned ... was a clear abuse of executive authority." But now, Ryan said, "there is more to do" to protect "young people who came to this country through no fault of their own," as well reach agreement on border security and other immigration issues.
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican who last year lost the party's presidential nomination to Trump, said, "President Obama's executive order was illegal. However, this is a real problem we should solve in a bipartisan fashion."
Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost to Obama, said, "President Trump's decision to eliminate DACA is the wrong approach to immigration policy at a time when both sides of the aisle need to come together to reform our broken immigration system and secure the border."
Trump gave Congress six months to consider legislation on the issue before undocumented immigrants, collectively known as Dreamers, could face deportation. He called it a "window of opportunity" and in a Twitter comment told Congress to "get ready to do your job - DACA!"
Trump agonized over ending the program, and just last week said, "We love the Dreamers." But he has taken a tough stance on illegal immigration and is continuing to press for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart more migrants from entering the United States.
Charles Schumer, leader of the minority Democratic bloc in the Senate, voiced pointed objection to Trump's decision and said Democrats "will do everything we can to prevent President Trump's terribly wrong order from becoming reality.
“Most Americans know how heartless the DACA decision is, ripping apart families and telling people who have worked hard to become Americans for years that they have to leave the country," Schumer said. "But we often forget how vital these hardworking people and their contributions are to our economy and to tens of thousands of businesses who will be hurt if the administration's order stands."
Whether Congress will pass legislation to protect the young immigrants from deportation is uncertain. Immigration policies remain a contentious political issue and Congress has repeatedly failed to enact changes.
After Trump's decision, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quickly sent out a fundraising pitch to Democratic supporters, calling the decision “quite possibly the cruelest thing President Trump has ever done.”
'Inhumane, cruel and shameful'
Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the decision "inhumane, cruel and shameful. Congress must now act immediately to pass the Dream Act without any partisan, divisive amendments to permanently protect these young people.”
Business leaders also weighed in with support for protective legislation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said individuals "enrolled in good faith" in the Obama program and "became ingrained in our communities and the nation’s economy. To reverse course now and deport these individuals is contrary to fundamental American principles and the best interests of our country."
The business lobby said "terminating their employment eligibility runs contrary to the president’s goal of growing the U.S. economy."
One of the country's most prominent business figures, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerburg, said, "This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it... It's time for Congress to act to pass the bipartisan Dream Act or another legislative solution that gives Dreamers a pathway to citizenship."
JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon, chairman of the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of the country's largest companies, said, "When people come here to learn, work hard and give back to their communities, we should allow them to stay in the United States."