The Obama-era program that shields nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation just got a powerful endorsement: Five former U.S. education secretaries, both Republicans and Democrats, have written to Congress asking lawmakers to keep the program intact.
The Trump administration earlier this week said it would phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), giving Congress six months to formulate a permanent legislative fix. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday said they’d sue over the decision.
Late Wednesday, five former U.S. education secretaries sent a letter to lawmakers, saying the contributions of so-called DREAMers “have already made our country stronger.”
They noted that 45% of DACA recipients are in “sharpening their minds” in school; they are, as a group, “accelerating innovation by developing new technologies, teaching the next generation of leaders in our public schools, treating patients in our hospitals, and contributing to rescue efforts in Houston” in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The letter is signed by officials from the past three administrations: Arne Duncan and John King, President Obama’s education secretaries; Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, who served under President George W. Bush; and Richard Riley, who served under President Clinton.
Trump’s action on DACA, they said, “would trigger a chaotic reversal of the gains achieved” by these young people, “undermine faith in our country’s immigration system, and make it harder to enforce our laws. It would create a gaping hole in our economy, disrupt our communities, and make it infinitely harder to strengthen our immigration system and protect our country.”
The DREAMers, they said, “are American in every way but their paperwork … We must not, we cannot, let these children down.”
A group of 64 education groups has already asked Congress to act on the program.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the 15-state group that’s suing the Trump administration, on Wednesday said Trump’s decision is “cruel, shortsighted, inhumane and potentially devastating” to the young immigrants, many of whom were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
In their complaint, state officials also said Trump’s actions exposed a willingness to discriminate against ethnic minorities to raise Trump’s political standing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who first announced the administration’s action Tuesday, called DACA an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
By Greg Toppo
Courtesy of USAToday