(BBC) Former US President Barack Obama has attacked the Trump administration for scrapping his scheme to protect young undocumented migrants from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme was rescinded on Tuesday, in a move that could affect some 800,000 beneficiaries.
While existing recipients will see no impact for at least six months, no new applications can now be made.
Appealing to Congress, Mr Obama said the decision was “cruel” and “wrong”.
The so-called “Dreamers”, mostly Latin Americans, were able to apply for work and study permits under the policy he introduced five years ago.
The Trump administration argues that the programme, which Mr Obama bypassed Congress in order to enact, was unconstitutional.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump, said he now looked forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to “address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country 1st”.
Police in New York made at least a dozen arrests when protesters rallied in front of Trump Tower, US media report, but there were no reports of clashes.
What Did Obama Say?
Mr Obama wrote on Facebook: “To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong.”
“Ultimately, this is about basic decency,” he said. “This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”
Despite bypassing Congress himself over the issue, the former president said: “Now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to members of Congress to protect these young people and our future.”
In a statement, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi also slammed Tuesday’s decision and called on majority Republicans in Congress to join Democrats in immediately moving to safeguard Daca recipients.
Two senators from the opposing parties held a joint news conference to call for bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers.
“The clock is ticking,” Democrat Dick Durbin said, while Republican Lindsey Graham said: “We believe in doing it right but ‘right’ means taking care of these kids.”
The Mexican government said in a statement (in Spanish) that it profoundly regretted the scrapping of Daca and would step up its consular work on behalf of its citizens who are affected.
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