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Essential Politics: Trump starts the clock for ‘Dreamer’ immigrants

There’s plenty of evidence in recent memory to back up the conclusion that Congress seems allergic to most tough votes. And few topics are more politically combustible than illegal immigration.

With that in mind, mark your calendars for early March. That’s when some 800,000 American residents — none of whom are citizens — lose their legal protection against deportation.

Good morning from the state capital, where California lawmakers have angrily denounced President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers.

Tuesday’s action is a rallying cry for Democrats, and a dilemma for Republicans.


The announcement was made not by Trump, but instead by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. When the president finally spoke later on Tuesday, he used the same pivot as White House officials: It’s not the end of a program as much as a demand that Congress pass a law and solve the problem that “Dreamer” immigrants face.

“I have a love for these people and, hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly,” Trump said.

The president’s press secretary went further in the attempt to lay the issue at the feet of members of the Senate and House.

“It’s Congress’s job to legislate,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The American people elected them to do it. And if they can’t, then they should get out of the way and let somebody else take their job, that can actually get something done.”

No matter what happens, there could be huge political stakes. As Cathleen Decker points out, congressional failure could mean thousands of deportations all happening during a pivotal election year.


— The attorney general of Texas, one of the officials threatening legal action if DACA wasn’t rescinded, applauded Trump’s decision. Even so, legal challenges to the decision loom large.

— In a rare public comment, former President Barack Obama called the DACA cancellation “a political decision, and a moral question.”

— Protesters marched in Washington.

— Deportees who are now in Mexico also spoke out about Trump’s decision.


The condemnation of Tuesday’s decision stretched far and wide among the ranks of California’s Democratic elected officials, but all eyes may first be on state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. Is a lawsuit on the horizon?

“No one should be treated this way,” he said at a news conference in Sacramento.

Legal action, as well as new legislation, is also likely from Democrats in the Legislature.


Most of the major candidates for governor weighed in on the decision to rescind the immigrant program — including state Treasurer John Chiang, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former state schools chief Delane Eastin and businessman John Cox.

The action could have major political implications for Republicans in the California congressional delegation. (And psst: We’ll have more analysis on vulnerable California Republicans in the coming weeks, and subscribers to this newsletter will get our new midterms project before anyone else.) Their GOP counterparts in Sacramento urged Congress to act soon to protect the group of immigrants.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on Congress to act, too, while agreeing that DACA appears to be on shaky legal ground.

Closer to home, city and county officials in Los Angeles — home to more DACA program recipients than anywhere else in California — called it a troubling day.

And there was intense reaction on both high school campuses and those of California’s public colleges and universities, where many “Dreamer” students are enrolled.


Our special live blog has been collecting reaction to the DACA decision from across the country and around the state. And we’ll keep monitoring the next steps on our Essential Washington and Essential Politics news feeds.


— As tensions rise with North Korea, a bipartisan group in Congress is urging the president not to walk away from a trade pact with South Korea.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned on Tuesday that Iran may be cheating on its nuclear treaty.

— Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will headline a September fundraiser for the Fresno County Republican Party.

— Make of this one what you will: Russian President Vladimir Putin said of Trump that “He is not my bride, and I am not his bride or groom.”

— The state Assembly approved legislation to task state officials with preserving climate change data that could be threatened by the federal government.

— A bill in Sacramento to boost public access to police body camera footage is dead for the year.

— The clues to last winter’s Oroville Dam spillway incident “were all there in the files,” says an investigator.

— After California cracked down on vaccine exemptions for parents’ personal beliefs in 2015, medical exemptions went way up.

— Take “The 210” to “The O”: State lawmakers name a stretch of Southern California freeway after former President Obama.


Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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