Area lawmakers in Congress say the children of immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, should be protected from deportation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Trump administration will end the program in six months, leaving it up to Congress to decide its fate.
President Donald Trump campaigned against the program last year, promising to reverse President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting the young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.
Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said in a statement that Obama lacked the legal authority to establish the program, but said that “children who were brought to the United States illegally, at a young age, are not at fault and deserve our support.”
“Congress needs to pass legislation to accommodate these young people while simultaneously addressing the other challenges within our deeply broken immigration system,” Toomey added.
Democrats have roundly condemned the administration’s decision to stop accepting applications to the program and begin dismantling it in March if Congress does not act.
But preserving the program in Congress will require the votes of Republicans, who control both houses.
New Jersey GOP Congressman Tom Mac Arthur said in a statement that “many of the young people affected by DACA have lived in the United States for most of their lives — and, in the eyes of their friends, neighbors and communities are just as American as my own kids.”
“They should not be punished for their parents’ crime,” MacArthur said.
Delaware County Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan said in a brief interview that “nobody wants to make the children [bear] the brunt for something their parents did.”
Meehan said Congress should resolve the issue, and he thinks there’s a good chance that will happen.
Chester County Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello said in a statement, “Congress must provide a humane, permanent, and constitutional solution for children who were brought to the United States at no fault of their own and remain here under DACA.”
Most of the Republican lawmakers said Obama was wrong to establish the DACA program by executive order.
It wasn’t clear from their prepared statements whether they favor extending protection from deportation just to children already in the program, or to also keep the program open to new applicants.
Several said they also believed Congress should enact more comprehensive immigration reform while addressing the issue.
Bucks County Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick said Congress “must reassert its authority and work to fix our immigration system by taking into account all aspects of the issue — from enacting ‘Kate’s Law’ to deport those who commit crimes while here illegally, to defunding sanctuary cities, to securing operational control of our borders, to treating with compassion those children who were brought here due to no fault of their own, in a manner that is becoming of American ideals and values.”
U.S. Rep. Don Norcross, a South Jersey Democrat, said his colleagues need to do more than just deal with DACA.
And he echoed the sentiments of several Republicans in calling for comprehensive immigration reform.
“What’s going on now is the worst of both worlds, they are now going to be in a status where they are going to be deported from the only country they have ever known,” he said.