Former President Barack Obama has responded to Donald Trump’s decision to repeal legal protections for young immigrants in the United States who came to the country as children, saying that the young “dreamers” have done nothing wrong.
In what was probably most Mr Obama’s most pointed public comments yet about the actions of the man who replaced him in the White House, he said the move to phase out the so-called DACA programme was “cruel” and “self-defeating”.
Mr Obama said repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme he implemented in 2012 was not about national security, the economy, or securing borders. Instead, he said, the measures unfairly targeted many young undocumented immigrants who know no other life than the ones they’ve built in the US.
“This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag,” Mr Obama wrote on Facebook. “These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
“They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours,” he continued. “They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”
The decision to scrap the plan was announced not by the President but by Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General, who called the DACA programme an unconstitutional overreach by the previous administration. Mr Sessions said there would be an “orderly, lawful wind-down”.
The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it was rescinding the scheme and leaving it to Congress to come up with an alternative. It said it was giving legislators six months to act.
In his statement, Mr Obama did not mention Mr Trump by name but said a “shadow has been cast” over some of the nation’s best and brightest young people. He said targeting them was wrong “because they have done nothing wrong”.
Reuters said that as the so-called “dreamers” who have benefited from the five-year-old programme were plunged into uncertainty, business leaders, mayors, Democratic politicians and civil rights leaders condemned the move.
After Mr Sessions appearance before the cameras, Mr Trump issued a written statement that said: “I do not favour punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions…