California lawmakers reacted Tuesday to the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind DACA, an Obama-era program that deferred deportation for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
An estimated quarter of the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients nationwide live in California.
Rep. Jeff Denham of Modesto said he believes Obama's original action to protect DACA recipients is unconstitutional, but called Trump's action Tuesday wrong.
"We as Americans have asked these individals to step forward, pass background checks, pay a fee as well as be a productive part of our society," Denham said. To pull the rug out from them now should be very concerning for everybody."
Hear an extended interview with Rep. Denham and Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler
State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) called the decision “cruel.”
“It’s again very troubling to see a president that is hell bent on making the U.S. a model for how not to treat your immigrants,” said Lara.
While the federal government sets immigration law, Lara argues the state legislature can offer some protections to those who fall under DACA.
“I have a bill now in the legislature that creates a mirror program so that our DACA students don’t lose that work opportunity while they’re in school – mid way through their career or maybe just beginning – with this executive order,” Lara said.
Stat Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) represents a large swathe of the Central Valley. He said he wants DACA recipients to stay in the U.S. and he’s looking to Congress to achieve that as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
“What he did today put it squarely into Congress’ hands," Vidak said. "And the House and the Senate had better do something because he’s put it in their hands and that’s where it should’ve been since the beginning."
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’s preparing to sue the Trump administration over its DACA decision, along with attorneys general in other states.
Meanwhile, state Senate Republican leader Patricia Bates released a statement saying Trump had “rescinded an unconstitutional executive order,” but that she now expects Congress to protect DACA recipients by way of comprehensive immigration reform.
Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez did not share Senator’s Bates’ confidence about action by Congress. He says the move is disheartening.
“If I was a young child, a DACA child, and I had to hear what I heard today from the President, knowing the history of what Congress has done dealing with immigration reform, I would be worried. Because they don’t seem to get anything done,” Chavez said.
As Chavez points out, Congress has failed to enact immigration reform under both Democratic and Republican administrations.