Trump ends 'Dreamer' immigration program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday scrapped an Obama-era program that protects from deportation immigrants brought illegally into the United States as children, delaying implementation until March and giving a gridlocked Congress six months to decide the fate of almost 800,000 young people.

As the so-called Dreamers who have benefited from the five-year-old program were plunged into uncertainty, business and religious leaders, mayors, governors, Democratic lawmakers, unions, civil liberties advocates and former Democratic President Barack Obama all condemned Trump's move.

The action was announced not by Trump but by Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, who called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program an unconstitutional overreach by Obama. There will be an "orderly, lawful wind-down," Sessions said.

Trump later issued a written statement saying that "I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are (a) nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."

27 PHOTOS
Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
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Protesters show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Yessenia Lopez stands with supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
Demonstrators carrying signs supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators supporting immigrants march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Demonstrators carrying signs march during a rally by immigration activists CASA and United We Dream demanding the Trump administration protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) programs, in Washington, U.S., August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Dafne Jacobs, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/30: Activists rallied in Columbus Circle and marched from there to Trump Tower in protest of President Donald Trump's possible elimination of the Obama-era 'Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals' (DACA) which curtails deportation of an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TRUMP TOWER - FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/08/15: On the fifth anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the New York Immigration Coalition will join its partners and immigrant New Yorkers to demand an end to discriminatory attacks on undocumented immigrant communities. Immigration advocates rally near Trump Tower on August 15, 2017; to demand Administration uphold programs that protect 1.2 million people from deportation. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 30: Serafina Ha (R) of Chicago embraces Becky Belcore of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium during a demonstration in favor of immigration reform in front of the White House August 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. Organized by The Franciscan Action Network, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries, Church World Service and Sisters of Mercy and NAKASEC, the rally began seven days of prayer and fasting to demand the Trump Administration protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protection Status (TPS). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Hundreds of immigration advocates and supporters attend a rally and march to Trump Tower in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA on August 30, 2017 in New York City. Immigrants and advocates across the country are waiting to hear President Donald Trump's decision on whether he will keep DACA which allows young people who immigrated to the U.S. as children to temporarily escape deportation and receive other benefits, started under President Barack Obama in 2012. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters gather for a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young immigrants and supporters walk holding signs during a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Los Angeles, California on September 1, 2017. A decision is expected in coming days on whether US President Trump will end the program by his predecessor, former President Obama, on DACA which has protected some 800,000 undocumented immigrants, also known as Dreamers, since 2012. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 5: Demonstrators hold signs outside of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building during a demonstration in response to the Trump Administration's announcement that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on September 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. DACA, an immigration policy passed by former President Barack Obama, allows certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors to receive renewable two-year deferred action from deportation and eligibility fork a work permit. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest in front of the White House after the Trump administration today scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children, in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Rocio, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient shouts with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kyle Grillot
A person from the group called "Make the Road" is detained while protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Members of the New York City police detain people protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient Alejandro Villasenor (L), from Mexico speaks speaks with other DACA recipient s during a town hall style meeting hosted by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th Dist) speaks about protecting DACA recipients in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. September 14, 2017. Picture taken September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Immigration activists and DACA recipients take part in a rally about the importance of passing a clean DREAM Act before delivering a million signatures to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 10: Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford (D-Las Vegas) (3rd L) joins immigrants and supporters as they march on the Las Vegas Strip during a 'We Rise for the Dream' rally to oppose U.S. President Donald Trump's order to end DACA on September 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protects young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. after arriving with their undocumented parents from deportation to a foreign country. Trump's executive order removes protection for about 800,000 current 'dreamers,' about 13,000 of whom live in Nevada. Congress has the option to replace the policy with legislation before DACA expires on March 5, 2018. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 14: Immigration rights activists rally during a protest and press conference before a court hearing challenging the Trump administration's termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, September 14, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. A court hearing was scheduled for this afternoon in a lawsuit brought last year on behalf of Martin Batalla Vidal, who came to the United States from Mexico with his parents when he was 7 years old. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 16: Rodrigo Valencia, 3, of Waltham waves a flag as he is held by his mother Vanessa as they joined hundreds of others attending a rally in support of DACA at the Boston Common on Sep. 16, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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He denounced Obama's program as an "amnesty-first approach" toward illegal immigrants and pressed his nationalist "America First" message, saying that despite concerns voiced by his critics about the fate of the Dreamers, "Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too."

Obama issued his own statement calling Trump's action a political decision, defending DACA's legality and urging Congress to protect Dreamers.

"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. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper," Obama said.

The Trump administration said nobody covered by the program, which provided work permits in addition to deportation protection and primarily benefits Hispanics, would be affected before March 5. Most people covered by DACA are in their 20s.

Trump shifted responsibility to a Congress controlled by his fellow Republicans and said it was now up to lawmakers to pass immigration legislation that could address the fate of those protected by DACA who would be in danger of deportation.

Neither Trump nor Sessions offered details of the type of legislation they would want to see, and Trump's spokeswoman offered only a broad outline.

"I have a love for these people (DACA recipients), and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly," Trump later told reporters at the White House, adding, "I think it's going to work out very well."

Since Trump took office in January, Congress has been unable to pass any major legislation, most notably failing on a healthcare overhaul, and lawmakers have been bitterly divided over immigration in the past.

"President Trump's decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault on innocent young people in communities across America," said Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.

The Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, said a coalition of states planned to file suit in the coming days to defend DACA, and one advocacy group announced its own legal action.

"This is a sad day for our country," added Facebook Inc <FB.O> founder Mark Zuckerberg. "The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it."

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O>, urged Congress to "put the humanitarian needs of these 800,000 people on the legislative calendar" before tax-cut legislation sought by Trump.

Nearly 800,000 people stepped forward, admitted their illegal immigrant status and provided personal information to the government to apply for the DACA program. They now face the prospect of being deported starting in March. Dreamers are a fraction of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

"The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, "It's not cold hearted for the president to uphold the law."

Trump said DACA recipients will not be deportation priorities unless they are criminals or gang members.

Ending DACA was the latest action by Trump sure to alienate Hispanic Americans, a growing segment of the U.S. population and an increasingly important voting bloc. Most of the immigrants protected by DACA came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

19 PHOTOS
Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
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Faces of those impacted by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient, is comforted after watching U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Young DACA recipients, Mario, Melanie and Luis, watch U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
Jorge-Mario Cabrera, CHIRLA spokesman and Communications Director (R), along with staff and young DACA recipients watches U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A family fills out an application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), at a workshop on February 18, 2015 in New York City. The immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York holds weekly workshops to help immigrants get legal status under DACA to work in the United States. An expansion of the national program, scheduled for this week, was frozen by a ruling from a Texas federal judge. The Obama Administration plans to appeal the ruling and, if sussessful, DACA would allow legalization of up to two million immigrants who entered the United States before they were age 16. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Mitzi Pena, 19, (R) her sister Yaretzi Pena, 5, and her cousin Karina Terriquez, 20, (L) wait in line to receive assitance in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: People attend an orientation class in filing up their application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Edgar Lopez shows his Employment Authorization Card, at home in Davenport, Florida, February 1, 2013. Edgar and his brother Javier are among the 1.7 million estimated illegal immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the U.S. as children and are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Oscar Barrera Gonzalez along with a group of immigrants, known as DREAMers, hold flowers as they listen to a news conference to kick off a new program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Roberto Larios, 21, (R) holds Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival application as he waits in line with hundreds of fellow undocumanted immigrants at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Brenda Robles, 20, (R) holds her high school diploma as she waits in line with her friends at at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 15: Hundreds of people line up around the block from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Under a new program established by the Obama administration undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can file applications from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Undocumented UCLA students Alejandra Gutierrez (L) and Miriam Gonzales attend a workshop for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Alan Valdivia receives assistance in filling out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
People fill out paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June.REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Students wait in line for assistance with paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Undocumented UCLA students prepare paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Los Angeles, California, August 15, 2012. President Barack Obama's administration announced on June 15 it would relax U.S. deportation rules so that many young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children can stay in the country and work. The changes went into effect on Wednesday. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)
Paulina, 26, a DACA recipient during U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on a projection screen at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 5, 2017. Paulina, a graduate of UCLA, arrived in the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She said the decision was really upsetting but she was going to continue to work to push members of Congress to enact a law to protect their rights. "We are not going to give up", she said. REUTERS/Monica Almeida
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The Mexican government said it "profoundly laments" Trump's decision to end DACA and pledged to strengthen efforts to guarantee consular protections for affected Mexican citizens.

THREAT OF SUITS

The Homeland Security Department will provide a limited window - until Oct. 5 - for some DACA recipients whose work permits expire before March 5 to apply to renew those permits. In addition, the department will adjudicate any new DACA requests, or renewal requests, accepted as of Sept. 5. This would mean that some beneficiaries of DACA could work legally in the country through 2019.

The administration said the president's decision was prompted in part by a threat from several Republican state attorneys general, led by Texas, to file legal challenges in federal court if Trump did not act to end DACA. Late on Tuesday Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton said he withdrew the 10-state suit after Trump's decision.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called on lawmakers to find a long-term solution for the young people affected by the reversal of the program. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Congress "will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said there could be a winning formula by coupling legislation to provide legal status for Dreamers with additional border security measures, although he said support is lacking in Congress for Trump's proposed border wall.

Trump made a crackdown on illegal immigrants a centerpiece of his 2016 election campaign, promising to deport every illegal immigrant.

The decision to end DACA is the latest action by Trump to erase key parts of his Democratic predecessor's legacy.

This includes pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, abandoning a 12-nation Pacific trade deal, seeking to dismantle the Obamacare healthcare law, rolling back environmental protections, reversing parts of Obama's opening to Cuba and removing protections for transgender people.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Doina Chiacu, Mica Rosenberg, Makini Brice, Tim Ahmann, Lawrence Hurley, Jonathan Allen, Sarah N. Lynch, Dustin Volz and David Alexander; Writing by Will Dunham and Dustin Volz; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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