Rep. Peter Welch says the Trump administration’s decision to reverse the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, also known as DACA, is the “height of cruelty.”
This post will be updated
Welch said he agrees with the Trump administration that Congress should take action on immigration reform, but not the administration’s tactics.
“This is the height of cruelty, to threaten good, law-abiding Americans where they’ve served in this country, in the military, on the Houston Fire Department and in Vermont,” he said. “We have 800,000 individuals who are DACA-identified, and they’re just like you and me. They’ve gone to school, they work, they have families, and they want to have the security of being able to contribute to this country. And the idea that you’d take that away, or threaten to take it away, is the height of cruelty, and it should not happen.”
The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it plans to reverse the Obama-era policy that provides legal residency status to immigrants who were brought into the United States illegally as children.
The Trump administration’s decision will remove those protections by March 5, 2018, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Welch said he received a letter from one man in Vermont, who Welch did not name, who was unable to attend medical school “but was able to get a science degree and has dedicated his life to researching cancer. And the reason: Because in his family, a person he loved had cancer. And why would the president even hint at a policy that would deprive this person and this country of the commitment of that individual to be part of finding the cure to cancer. This is outrageous, and I will do everything in my power to make certain that the DACA individuals are protected.”
Gov. Phil Scott also voiced support for DACA policies, noting the contributions immigrants bring to U.S. communities.
"It's unfortunate the President has chosen to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals [DACA] program, which now leaves it in the hands of Congress for legislative action,” Scott said in a statement. “The young people who will be affected have known no other home than the U.S., and DACA has given many of them important academic opportunities that further their ability to contribute to our communities, and our nation.”
There is still a chance that the government could continue offering special immigration status to people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. The policies that are part of DACA, or other immigration reforms, could become enshrined in law. That would take an act of Congress, and Welch said Tuesday that such a bill has some chance of passing.
“It could happen. There’s a lot of Republicans, including [Colorado Rep.] Mike Coffman or [Florida Rep.] Carlos Curbelo … that recognize that these individuals grew up here and had nothing to do with doing anything wrong in arriving here. And they also recognize, like in Houston, you’ve got a Houston firefighter – how are you going to go pick that person up and send him to a country that he has never known?” Welch said. “So a lot of my Republican colleagues get it, and my hope is that we’re going to be able to get them linked up with Democrats and have a DACA policy that provides a pathway to citizenship and certainly the opportunity for legal [residency] status, to work.”
University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan said in an email to students and employees that the university “does not require documentation regarding the immigration status of individuals who are not sponsored by the university for study or employment.”
Sullivan also said that the university will not share any student’s private information “in the absence of a formal legal process, such as a subpoena,” and added that UVM’s police force does not ask about immigration status or detain or arrest people solely based on their immigration status.
Correction 4:27 p.m. An earlier version of this story, as well as a mobile notification from VPR, named an incorrect number of people who are DACA recipients in Vermont. There are 42.