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Trump Says Some DACA Recipients Are ‘Very Tough, Hardened Criminals’

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Hours before Supreme Court justices were to begin hearing arguments about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, President Donald Trump said many people enrolled in the program are far from “angels.”

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Tuesday on Trump’s bid to terminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump has long argued that his predecessor did not have the legal right to sign DACA into law, but he has struggled to strike down the program that has protected over half a million migrants from deportation.

After previously suggesting that he did not have the authority to implement such a law unilaterally, then-President Barack Obama changed course and signed the DACA executive order in 2012 — allowing hundreds of thousands of young aliens who entered the U.S. illegally as children to be shielded from deportation. While the executive order does not give recipients permanent legal status, the program has given young illegal aliens the ability to work in the U.S. and obtain driver’s licenses.

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) (2nd R), the first Dreamer elected to Congress, helps leads 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)

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) (2nd R), the first Dreamer elected to Congress, helps leads 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. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, declared in 2017 that the executive order was unconstitutional and would be rescinded. However, a federal appeals court upheld a nationwide injunction against the the Trump administration in November 2018, and the fight over DACA’s future has reached the nation’s highest court.

There are about 800,000 people currently enrolled in the DACA program. The vast majority, roughly 80%, are Mexican nationals. A growing number of them have also aged well into adulthood since Obama signed the executive order.

Data released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2018 revealed that tens of thousands of illegal aliens who were approved for DACA carried a criminal record.

“The truth is that we let those with criminal arrests for sexually assaulting a minor, kidnapping, human trafficking, child pornography, or even murder be provided protection from removal. Yet the courts rule that we are unable to change this policy,” said then-USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna at the time.

However, Trump does not want to see an end to DACA, arguing instead that the program should be cemented by way of Congress — not through presidential executive order. Immigration officials within the administration have repeated their belief that DACA is an issue for lawmakers.

“The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was created by the Obama Administration through a memorandum after President Obama said repeatedly that it was illegal for him to do so,” Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of USCIS, said in a Tuesday statement.

“Ultimately, this should be an issue for Congress to decide. If Congress wants to shield these aliens from deportation and provide them a legal status, that is its prerogative.  In the meantime, DHS is a law-enforcement agency and nothing should keep it from enforcing the law,” Cuccinelli continued. (RELATED: Obama Judge Rules Trump Admin Must Provide Mental Health Services To Separated Migrant Families)

While the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Tuesday, a decision over DACA’s fate will not be made until sometime in 2020.

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