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ICYMI: Jeh Johnson: “Have a Heart, Mr. President, and Defend These Immigrants in Court”

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“Mr. President, do the right thing. Protect the kids. Don’t end DACA.”

As threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program multiply, former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson joins fellow advocates in defense of the opportunities that the DACA program provides to nearly 800,000 young people in America. Ahead of the September 5th deadline to end DACA given to President Trump by 10 Attorneys General, Johnson urges Trump to stay true to his promises to protect Dreamers, and “protect the kids.”

Find key excerpts from Johnson’s piece in the Wall Street Journal below, and the article in its entirety here.

The attorneys general of 10 states have written the U.S. Justice Department in recent months, threatening to sue the federal government unless it ends the policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The states have given the administration until September 5to decide to end DACA or face a lawsuit. Thus, now is the time for President Trump to make a decision about the policy’s future; he should continue DACA and instruct his attorney general to defend it in court.

Mr. Trump’s experience in the business world should help him understand his role in the coming legal conflict. The attorney general is the top lawyer for the U.S. government, and the president is its CEO. It is the prerogative of the president to instruct his attorney general to defend his administration’s policies whenever there is a good-faith legal basis to do so. The DACA challenges present one such opportunity.

Established in 2012, DACA is a policy by which the Department of Homeland Security will, after a background check, grant a two-year deferral from deportation for aliens who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, have been here for at least five years, and have committed no serious crimes. A decision by President Trump to defend DACA would be consistent with his own public statements that many DACA recipients are “absolutely incredible kids” for whom we should show “great heart.” In 2013, Mr. Trump met a few of these young people. He was impressed: “You convinced me,” he reportedly told them at the end of the meeting. And in accordance with that, the Department of Homeland Security has continued to issue new and renewed DACA work permits since Mr. Trump took office.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and others have sponsored legislation to provide legal status to DACA recipients. If passed, this legislation would nullify the states’ threatened lawsuit. But until it is passed the proposal will do nothing to discourage the lawsuits, and the September 5 deadline does not leave Congress very much time.


Deciding the future of DACA presents a chance for the president to show a “great heart.” Public office and the manner in which we enforce the law permits us to do that once in a while. DACA recipients came here as kids, and they’ve been here for years. As Mr. Trump himself has observed, they are almost all outstanding young men and women who grew up and went to school here, work hard, follow the law, and hope to share in the American dream. They are American in fact though not in law.

During my three years as secretary of homeland security, the government returned, removed or repatriated more than a million illegal aliens. But I always endeavored personally to hear the individual stories of those immigrants our government arrests or deports. One of my lasting memories is that of a young man I met in Honduras who came to the U.S. as a child with his mother and brother, and who grew up in New Jersey. Before the creation of DACA in 2012, he was scooped up and deported back to Honduras alone, without his family. In all visible respects he was American—he spoke perfect English with a familiar New York-New Jersey accent, grew up with American television, and is a New York Giants fan. Somehow, though he was evicted from the U.S., dislodged from his family here, and forced to make a new life in Honduras, he still loves America and the New York Giants.

Mr. President, do the right thing. Protect the kids. Don’t end DACA.