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Trump Gives Congress A 6-Month Window To Deal With DACA

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When President Trump move to end DACA, he created a dilemma for two groups of people, the 800,000 so-called DREAMers who had been protected by the Obama-era program and Congress. Instead of ending the program immediately, President Trump chose to phase out DACA in six months, giving Capitol Hill a window to replace it.

President Obama put DACA in place through executive action as a way to protect the children of immigrants who came here illegally. Trump has gotten a lot of criticism for his move to phase DACA out, criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. Last night, the president tweeted that he might, quote, "revisit" this issue if Congress fails to find a solution.

Mark Krikorian is with us now in our studios here in Washington. He is the head of the Center for Immigration Studies, which takes a hard-line position on immigration. Mark, thanks so much for coming in.

MARK KRIKORIAN: Glad to be here.

MARTIN: What did you make of President Trump's decision on DACA?

KRIKORIAN: He really didn't have any choice. It's long overdue. DACA is an illegal program. And, you know, I think people should be encouraged that a president said, look, I don't have power to do this. It's the job of the elected representatives of the people to make the law. That's actually an encouraging sign, regardless of the immigration issue. It's a separate issue, what you think should be done about young illegal immigrants who grew up here.

I mean, I have some pretty solid views on legalizing them. I think that's a - they're a special case - they're a special subset of illegal immigrants. But there have to be offsets to make sure that an amnesty like that doesn't have, further downstream, harmful consequences. So my point is that this is Congress' job, and now we can have a debate about what Congress should be doing about it.

MARTIN: Do you think the president should have just ended it immediately?

KRIKORIAN: We should have ended it in January rather than now. But I think phasing it out is a sensible thing because, while it never should have existed in the first place, President Obama created facts on the ground with his unlawful order. And therefore, it's prudent to try to back out of it rather than just pull the plug, you know, right away.

MARTIN: So I want to touch on something you just mentioned. Do you think that the issue of the so-called DREAMers, these 800,000 people who were brought here as children - do you think this can and should be treated separately from the bigger debate over immigration reform in this country?

KRIKORIAN: Sure. I mean, that's - they're clearly the most sympathetic group of illegal immigrants. The point is that they've grown up here. They not only didn't decide to come here on their own, they grew up here, and their identities have been formed here. It really is a special case.

But any legislation by Congress has to have both enforcement elements and legal immigration changes to make sure that there aren't downstream harmful effects 'cause every amnesty encourages more illegal immigration. And also, the people - the adults who did know what they were doing, you know, who are legally responsible for what they did, shouldn't be benefiting down the road from this amnesty.

MARTIN: What do you think the odds are that Congress actually gets this done? I mean, this has been a Congress that hasn't been able to get much done.

KRIKORIAN: Yeah, that's true. It's entirely possible they'll do nothing at all. But it's on them. I mean, that's why we have a legislature. Call your congressman is all I can say. I mean, the result may be something I don't even like. But it's at least lawful, whatever it is they end up doing - if they do something.

MARTIN: Although, just briefly, President Trump tweeted last night that he would revisit this if Congress doesn't fix it.

KRIKORIAN: Yeah. I don't believe he actually wrote "The Art Of The Deal" because you negotiate - he's negotiating with himself at this point. I mean, his sequel to his book should be "The Art Of The Choke," I'm afraid.

MARTIN: Mark Krikorian, head of the Center for Immigration Studies, thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.