WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump yesterday scrapped a programme that protects from deportation almost 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the United States illegally as children, giving a gridlocked Congress six months to decide their fate.
Mr Trump's action, announced by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, rescinds a programme called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca). The programme, created by former president Barack Obama, is supported by Democrats and many business leaders.
The Trump administration said no current beneficiaries of the programme would be affected before March 5 next year.
Mr Sessions said the action does not mean the Daca recipients are "bad people".
"To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It's just that simple. That would be an open-border policy and the American people have rightly rejected that," he said.
The move marks the latest action by Mr Trump that is sure to alienate Hispanic Americans, a growing segment of the US population and an increasingly important voting bloc. Most of the immigrants protected by Daca, dubbed "Dreamers", came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Mr Trump's action, deferring the actual end of the programme, effectively kicks responsibility for the fate of the Dreamers to his fellow Republicans who control Congress.
But Congress has been unable since the President took office in January to pass any major legislation and has been bitterly divided over immigration in the past.
Mr Obama bypassed Congress and created Daca through an executive order.
LEFT VIRTUALLY HOMELESS
The President's action would upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who have only ever called America their home.
NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, in a joint statement with the state's Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman.
Mr Trump appeared determined to pressure US lawmakers to act.
"Congress, get ready to do your job - Daca!" the President wrote on Twitter yesterday, before the policy announcement was made.
There were some signs that Congress might be willing to act, with a number of senior Republican lawmakers coming forward to express an interest in protecting the Dreamers.
Mr Trump's decision may have been forced by nine Republican state attorneys-general, led by Texas, who had threatened a legal challenge in federal court if he did not act to end Daca. A number of Democratic state attorneys-general, however, have threatened legal action to defend the programme.
Number of "Dreamers", young people who are covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), a policy created by former president Barack Obama to protect them from deportation and that allows them to work legally in the US.
"The President's action would upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people who have only ever called America their home", said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a joint statement with the state's Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman.