Siouxland's Republican-dominated congressional delegation largely praised the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to rescind the Obama-era program allowing 800,000 younger undocumented immigrants to be shielded from deportation.
“However well-intentioned DACA may have been, the program was created by executive edict rather than by Congress as the Constitution requires," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Barack Obama created by executive order five years ago.
“President Trump is correct – the DACA program violated the separation of powers established by our Constitution and should never have been created through executive action," Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said. "This and many other aspects of our broken immigration system, such as border security, have gone too long without being addressed."
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., made similar points, saying Trump "took steps to address this executive overreach by the previous administration."
"Congress now has the opportunity to address the legal status of the DACA recipients as part of a broader discussion on border security and legal immigration reform," Fischer said.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, also praised the move in tweets over the weekend.
"Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law,'' King tweeted. The conservative Republican, an outspoken critic of U.S. immigration policy, added that delaying a decision on DACA so the GOP leadership in Congress "can push Amnesty is Republican suicide."
In a related Tweet Tuesday, King suggested the young immigrants protected by DACA "will make great 'Peace Corp' volunteers" in their home countries."
There were signals in recent days the Trump administration would end the program. And the announcement Tuesday drew criticism from Democrats, including Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Dave Loebsack. He called the decision “disheartening.”
“We should not allow children who were brought to this country through no action of their own -- including men and women who have proudly served in the United States military -- to be deported,” Loebsack said.
The 2012 order was roundly attacked by Republicans after it was issued. And as a candidate, Donald Trump also criticized the program. However, since he took office, his administration has debated how to deal with it. Trump has even expressed admiration for the young immigrants, who are sometimes called Dreamers. At one point, Trump said "we love the Dreamers."
Most DACA recipients are in Southern and Western states, but some are in every state in the nation. In Iowa, about 2,800 were in the program as of earlier this year, while about 3,300 are in Nebraska and another 500 in South Dakota, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an arm of the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Rosa Mendoza, executive director of the Diversity Service Center of Iowa, a nonprofit in Muscatine, said the center has helped with about 50 DACA applications. Mendoza said Tuesday that she is disappointed in the decision and that DACA recipients have become part of the community.
“They’ve found stability through the program,” she said. “Now, they live in fear.”
In her reaction, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, noted the circumstances of the younger immigrants' presence in the state, saying “we must show compassion toward these children.” She added, “while I do not support giving them citizenship, we must identify and pursue a measured approach that addresses their unique situation, but also respects the importance of our immigration laws ..."
It’s not clear whether Congress will take any action on immigration before March 5, when benefits for existing DACA recipients expire. But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has proposed a bill, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would grant permanent legal status to people in similar circumstances as DACA recipients if they meet certain conditions.
On Tuesday, Durbin said the administration's actions have started the clock on Congress to prevent "rolling mass deportations of hundreds of thousands of young people" and urged passage of his bill.
Grassley had a different take on how deportations might proceed. In his statement, he said he expected the administration would focus on deporting "criminals ahead of those who have otherwise abided by our laws."
The Trump administration said Tuesday that current DACA recipients will be allowed to retain deferred action benefits and their employment authorization documents until they expire, unless they're terminated or revoked. DACA generally runs for two years from issuance.
No new requests will be taken after Tuesday, the administration said. As for renewal requests, the administration said it would not accept any after Oct. 5.