GOP lawmakers urge Trump to keep protections for 'Dreamers'

GOP lawmakers urge Trump to keep protections for 'Dreamers'

A group of mostly centrist House Republicans is urging President Trump to keep protections in place for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

In a letter made public Thursday, a half-dozen GOP lawmakers encouraged Trump to focus his immigration enforcement policies on criminals and leave the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in place until Congress can pass immigration reform.

"Children brought to the United States at a young age did not have a choice in the matter," the lawmakers wrote. "Such cases require careful and thoughtful analysis about what is in the best interests of our country."

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"We strongly support your commitment to deporting those who have broken our laws, and we believe the resources that might be directed towards targeting those with DACA status would be better spent on targeting criminals."

Trump faces a September deadline to make his position clear on the Obama-era program, which grants temporary work permits to certain qualifying undocumented immigrants.

An ultimatum issued by 10 state attorneys general threatening to challenge DACA demands the Trump administration to decide by Sept. 5 whether to rescind the program or defend it in court.

The letter released Thursday was signed by Reps. Dan Donovan (N.Y.), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), David Valadao (Calif.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Don Bacon (Neb.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).

Bacon was the only signatory on the letter whose state is threatening to challenge DACA in court.

The lawmakers pointed to a bill introduced by Curbelo, the Recognizing America's Children Act, as a possible legislation solution. The legislation would establish a pathway for DACA recipients and other young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to gain legal status. The bill currently has 18 GOP cosponsors, but has not received any legislative action to date.

Trump campaigned promising to crack down on illegal immigration, but has taken a softer tone on the fate of immigrants already enrolled in DACA.

"It's a decision that I make and it's a decision that's very, very hard to make. I really understand the situation now," Trump told reporters on Air Force One in July.

"I understand the situation very well. What I'd like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan. But our country and political forces are not ready yet."

The Department of Homeland Security announced in June that current DACA recipients would "continue to be eligible for renewal."

At the same time, the Trump administration formally rescinded another Obama-era program that would have shielded undocumented immigrants from deportation who were parents of children legally in the U.S. That program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), never went into effect because of legal litigation.