The plan was kept under wraps so as to prevent any leaks. At DHS headquarters, fewer than 10 people were clued in on the proceedings, Napolitano recalled. At USCIS fewer than five people were looped in. “Prior to June 15, the number of people at USCIS that knew of and were involved in the development were extraordinarily few. It was the morning of June 15 that leadership was filled in,” said a former senior USCIS official.
Behind closed doors, a number of players were making sure that the proposal had the financial and operation backing, as well as legal standing, to proceed. “Within that last week we knew we were moving forward,” said Felicia Escobar, former special assistant to the president for immigration policy.
Just hours before the announcement, White House staffers called activists, lawmakers, and other stakeholders to warn them that something was coming down the pipeline. Finally, on the morning of June 15, Napolitano released a memo announcing the decision expanding the use of prosecutorial discretion for some undocumented immigrants. Hours later, Obama would address reporters in the Rose Garden.
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DACA was never intended to be a permanent solution. Obama addressed this himself in his 2012 address announcing the program: “This is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.”
Congress is the only entity that can alter the nation’s immigration laws. Prior to 2012, Obama himself had repeatedly explained his lack of executive action by insisting that Congress alone held the power to address the issue. The announcement of DACA was immediately met with a chorus of critics insisting that it was unconstitutional, and spurring a host of legal challenges.
“I believe that this is something Congress has to fix,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Friday. Politico reported over the weekend that Ryan was informed of Trump’s decision Sunday morning. Republicans like Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake have urged the administration to leave the program alone for now, and allow Congress to provide a permanent solution.
If the administration discards their advice and moves ahead with its plan to cancel DACA, it will add the contentious issue to an already overcrowded congressional calendar. There are 12 Republican cosponsors for a measure in the House that would institutionalize much of the DACA program, and the legislation also enjoys significant Republican support in the Senate. It remains unclear, though, whether the bill could attract enough GOP votes to clear the House, sufficient support to survive a Senate filibuster, or a presidential signature if it does. And already, there is opposition to the bill. Senator Tom Cotton, an immigration hardliner, is insisting that any move to aid Dreamers be coupled to stricter enforcement and the constriction of legal immigration.
So if Trump announces the end of DACA as anticipated on Tuesday, it will leave hundreds of thousands of people in limbo, waiting to see if Congress can achieve consensus on an issue that has long resisted it.