Trump once claimed DACA recipients deserved ‘compassion’

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President Trump on Tuesday released a statement regarding his administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, insisting that the Obama-era policy had led to “tragic consequences,” including “lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers.” But as recently as 2012, Trump was promoting a different stance.

“A part of the provision with this executive decision [DACA] is you can apply for a work permit if you’re in this country illegally. What will hundreds of thousands of work permits do to unemployment and the economy at large?” a Fox and Friends host asked Trump back in 2012, just as the program was being rolled out.

“Obviously the concept is that you throw everybody out and everybody else gets a job, but it doesn’t work that way,” Trump responded. “A lot of the jobs that these people have, a lot of other people don’t want. You know that and I know that, and you see it all the time. Whether it’s picking grapes or doing something else, you have jobs that a lot of people aren’t going to want, so I don’t think it’s as complicated as that.”

Trump added that the United States “really [had] to come up with a solution” to the immigration issue that was compassionate. “We can’t just throw everybody out,” he said.

In his statement this week, the president took a remarkably different tone.

“The decades-long failure of Washington, D.C. to enforce federal immigration law has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages and higher unemployment for American workers, substantial burdens on local schools and hospitals, the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers,” Trump said. “Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system. Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.”

In a briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on those comments.

“I think that it’s a known fact that there are over 4 million unemployed Americans in the same age group as those that are DACA recipients,” she said. “Over 950,000 of those are African-Americans in the same age group, over 870,000 unemployed Hispanics in the same age group. Those are large groups of people that are unemployed that could possibly have those jobs.”

Trump’s relatively recent shift in posture is further complicated by other comments the president has made in the past, as well as his own previous business practices. In a November 2011 interview with Fox and Friends, Trump stated that he was in favor of “amnesty” for undocumented workers, again on the basis of “compassion.”

“This isn’t conservative, I’m the world’s most conservative person, this isn’t conservative. This is compassion,” Trump said. “I guess to a certain extent, for a very limited number of people, it would be considered amnesty, but how do you tell a family that’s been here for 25 years to get out?”

The president has been criticized in the past for requesting guest worker permits for employees at his own various properties. As recently as December 2016, the Labor Department awarded Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club 64 foreign worker visas; in March, The Daily Progress and Associated Press reported that Trump Vineyard Estates, run by the president’s son Eric, was granted 29 federal H-2A guest worker visas as well. The H-2A program allows agricultural employers to bring in foreign workers when there’s a shortage of domestic workers to fill certain roles. During the 2016 campaign, Trump also defended guest worker policies, saying it was “common among U.S. companies,” according to Quartz.

The DACA roll-back announced on Tuesday includes a six-month window in which Congress will be expected to act and pass legislation solidifying certain protections or to do away with them altogether. Those registered under the current DACA program must apply for an additional two-year permit, in order to avoid losing their protections on March 5, 2018. Applications must be submitted by October 5.

Approximately 800,000 individuals are protected under DACA, according to the latest information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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