President Donald Trump plans to announce Tuesday that he will end an Obama-era program protecting young immigrants brought into the country as children, which quickly drew the ire of Florida Democrats.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, allows nearly 800,000 young immigrants, known colloquially as “Dreamers,” a reprieve from deportation as well as renewable two-year work permits.
An estimated 95 percent of the immigrants in the program are either working or attending school.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former congresswoman Gwen Graham was among the first to blast Trump’s plan when the news leaked Sunday night. Fellow Democratic candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum quickly followed suit.
“THESE ARE INNOCENT HUMAN BEINGS,” she tweeted. “Our friends and neighbors. This is unconscionable.”
The North Florida Democrat, who is the daughter of former governor and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, was more measured in an official campaign press release, saying that Trump and Florida Republicans “are playing politics with young people’s lives.”
“Dreamers might not have full citizenship, yet, but they are still Floridians — and, as governor, I will defend them,” she said.
King called Trump’s decision “cruel and misguided” and he and Gillum also pledged to support and protect the Dreamers if elected next year.
“These young people have been educated in our schools, opened businesses in our neighborhoods, and made significant contributions to our economy. Ripping families apart, and punishing innocent children for the actions of their parents, is not in line with Florida values,” King said.
Gillum said axing the program was “as wrongheaded as it is heartless” and said he was “deeply saddened” on behalf of Florida Dreamers.
“When we deport children who have never known another country, we have truly lost our moral standing on the world stage,” he said.
About the only thing the three Democrats weren’t aligned on is the number of Dreamers who call the Sunshine State home. Graham cited 50,000, while King said 70,000 and Gillum claimed upwards of 100,000.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was among the few GOP officials to slam the plan, voicing her disapproval over Twitter Sunday.
“After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’…” she said.
Ben Ray Luján, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blasted out an email about an hour after the story was first reported by POLITICO.
“President Trump’s cowardice on DACA threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding young people and is a disgrace. In Trump’s absence of leadership and compassion, House Republicans must move immediately to work with Democrats, codify DACA into law and do everything possible to protect Dreamers,” he said in an email.
State Rep. David Richardson, who is running for Congress, echoed Luján’s leadership angle, saying the president’s decisions “are not the actions of a great leader, or for that matter any kind of leader.”
“This is yet another example of the President singling out the most vulnerable among us for incredible levels of anguish — he builds up the level of hate to reinforce the acceptance of prejudice,” he said.
CD 27 candidate Mary Barzee Flores added that the decision “is going to have a devastating effect on American families and communities.”
“I’m hard pressed to think of a more callous policy than putting 800,000 children and young adults in trembling fear over having their lives uprooted in virtually the only country they’ve ever called home,” Flores said.
Trump’s plan would phase out DACA after six months, and those within the president’s inner circle warned that he could change his mind in the interim.
The delay in the formal dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, would be intended to give Congress time to decide whether it wants to address the status of the so-called Dreamers 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 program, or whose permits expire during the six-month stretch.
During his campaign, Trump slammed DACA as illegal “amnesty” and vowed to eliminate the program the day he took office. But since his election, Trump has wavered on the issue, at one point telling The Associated Press that those covered could “rest easy.”
The expected announcement would come as the White House faces a Tuesday deadline set by Republican state officials threatening to sue the Trump administration if the president did not end the program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.