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September 05, 2017

Toomey: Rescinding DACA is 'the right step'

Opposing Philly-area politicians also spoke up about the decision

Pat Toomey, U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania, agreed in a statement Tuesday that children who were brought to the country illegally and qualified for a federal program that protects them did nothing wrong.

But the Republican still agreed with President Donald Trump's decision to revoke by next spring Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the former president announced in June 2012.

"President (Barack) Obama did not have the legal authority to create the DACA program and to ignore enforcement of existing immigration law," Toomey said in a statement after Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement. "President Trump's decision to end this program, while giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution, is the right step."

The country is set to halt new applications for the program, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and allowed them to work legally with two-year, renewable permits. But the Trump administration will give Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered under the program, Sessions said Tuesday.

Toomey, one of several area politicians to opine on the decision, said new legislation should "accommodate these young people while simultaneously addressing the other challenges within our deeply broken immigration system." Those challenges include "stopping dangerous sanctuary cities, strengthening border security, and cracking down on companies that hire people who are here illegally," Toomey said.

But plenty of area lawmakers and Philadelphia officials strongly opposed the decision.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) alleged that the GOP is "not serious about fixing the problem of illegal immigration, securing our border and reforming our immigration system" and urged Congress to approve the "Dream Act of 2017," a bipartisan bill pending in the U.S. Senate that would allow qualified immigrant children to become permanent residents.

Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat representing Montgomery County and parts of Delaware County, went a step further.

"I'd say 'could anything be more evil?' But I know our soulless tangelo-haired, hate-geyser prez will keep trying," Leach said of Trump in a tweet on Monday in a response to a Politico report that Trump would end DACA in six months.

Leach followed up after Sessions' announcement, saying rescinding the policy "may be the single cruelest, most heartless thing a president has ever done. The exact opposite of what America is all about."

In Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney called the decision "inherently un-American."

He said the program has allowed nearly 6,000 people to live and work legally in Pennsylvania, and ending it would cost the state $357 million annually.

Philadelphia is a so-called sanctuary city that prohibits local law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status. The city sued Sessions last week over new conditions to a grant program that gives funding to local law enforcement agencies.

"Those who have benefitted from the DACA program came here with their parents searching for a better life and more opportunities," Kenney said in a statement. "They escaped violence, natural disasters and hunger. Today, many are thriving as students and young professionals, and contributing to the vibrant fabric of our nation.

"To our Philadelphian DACA recipients - we respect you, we love you, and don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re not an American."

Councilwoman Helen Gym, who pushed out several pictures and statements on social media from a Center City protest on Tuesday in response to the decision, was among City Council members to criticize the decision. She said the city will remain a sanctuary city and "expand what that means – protecting students in our schools & fixing a broken justice system."