Former President Barack Obama condemned President Donald Trump's decision to end his 2012 executive order that granted deportation protections to young immigrants, calling Trump's move "cruel" and "self-defeating."
The government will stop processing new applications for Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the U.S., the Trump administration announced Tuesday.
"Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us," Obama said in a statement.
The Trump administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.
"Today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again," Obama said. "To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong."
Obama did not mention Trump by name in his statement.
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Obama administration's program "an unconstitutional exercise of authority" in a news briefing announcing that the program was being rescinded, words that Trump echoed in his statement.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wants to see "responsible immigration reform" from Congress. She says it should also include controlling the U.S. border, improved vetting and enforcing immigration laws.
"I don’t think the president has been shy about the fact that he wants a wall," Sanders said.
Trump has spent months wrestling with what to do with DACA, which he slammed during his campaign as illegal "amnesty."
The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 as a stopgap as it pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress. Many Republicans say they opposed the program on the grounds that it was executive overreach.
Former Vice President Joe Biden also released a statement on the DACA decision Tuesday, calling for Congress to act to protect people "in the only place they've ever called home."
"These people are all Americans," he said. "So let's be clear: throwing them out is cruel. It is inhumane. And it is not America."
Former President Bill Clinton criticized the Trump administration's decision to begin phasing out a program that protects young immigrants brought to the country illegally, saying it will "crush their dreams and weaken the American Dream for the rest of us."
Clinton said in a statement issued Tuesday evening that the program "brought hundreds of thousands of young people out of the shadows — allowing them to live without fear, go to school, work, and contribute to America in countless other ways."
He said the phase-out is wrong and irresponsible, "passing the buck instead of offering sensible solutions for immigration reform."