Anger as Trump scraps Obama-era migrant amnesty
US President Donald Trump yesterday scrapped a programme that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young people who were brought into the United States illegally as children, ordering a phased-out dismantling that gives a gridlocked Congress six months to decide the immigrants' fate.
Mr Trump's action, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinds a programme called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The administration presented the move as necessary to show respect for immigration laws, and said nobody covered by the programme would be affected before March 5.
The programme, created by Democratic former president Barack Obama, is supported by Democrats and many business leaders, and hundreds of people protested outside the White House over the announcement.
"President Trump's decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America," said Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Mr Sessions said the action did not mean the DACA recipients were "bad people".
"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," he said.
Mr Trump said: "I do not favour punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognise that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."
Most of the immigrants protected by DACA, dubbed "Dreamers", came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Mr Trump's order, deferring the actual end of the programme, 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 divided over immigration in the past.
Mr Obama bypassed Congress and created DACA through an executive order in 2012. Mr Sessions said Mr Obama exceeded his authority in setting up the programme, which has long been the target of conservative hard-liners.
Elaine Duke, acting head of the Homeland Security Department, issued a memo rescinding DACA. The department will provide a limited window - until October 5 - for some DACA recipients whose work permits expire before March 5 to apply to renew those permits. This would mean that some beneficiaries of DACA could be in the country through to 2019.
DACA recipients whose work permits expire will be considered to be in the country and eligible for deportation, but will be a low priority for immigration enforcement, administration officials said.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan called on politicians to find a long-term solution for the young people affected. "At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them, it's the only country they know," he said.
Mr Trump made a crackdown on illegal immigrants a centrepiece of his 2016 election campaign. But business leaders say immigrants make important economic contributions and that ending the DACA programme would hit economic growth and tax revenue.