White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday defended the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Obama-era program that gives a deportation reprieve to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, saying that “it’s not cold-hearted” for President Trump to “uphold the law.”
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s “orderly wind down” of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, Sanders put the onus on Congress to “do their job,” while defending the president’s “compassion.”
“It’s not cold-hearted for the president to uphold the law. We’re a nation of law and order and the day we start to ignore the fact that we are that, then we throw away everything that gives these people a reason to want to come to our country,” Sanders said at Tuesday’s White House press briefing. “If we stop becoming the country that we were envisioned to be, then we throw away what makes us special, which makes America unique. This president is not willing to do that -- the previous administration was -- this one isn’t.”
Sanders said that the president “wrestled back and forth” with the DACA decision, and acknowledged that it “was not an easy one” for Trump, who has been firm on immigration reform.
“He wants to be able to make a decision with compassion, but at the same time, you can’t allow emotion to govern,” Sanders said, adding that the Trump administration is looking for “real solutions,” and to “uphold the Constitution.”
“I think people across this country should be celebrating the fact that they have a president that is standing up and upholding the Constitution as he was elected to do,” Sanders said.
Sanders, in an awkward moment when laying out the White House’s “options” in ending DACA, accidentally referred to President Trump as “President Obama.”
“President Obama is laying out a responsible 24-month phaseout,” Sanders said, greeted by laughter from reporters. “Sorry --President Trump.”
The Trump administration put pressure on Congress to come up with a legislative replacement to DACA, leaving lawmakers with a six-month delay for current recipients. According to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, the six-month window is meant to give Congress “time to deliver on appropriate legislative solutions.”
“It’s Congress’ job to legislate -- it’s not the president’s job to create the law,” Sanders said. “I think that’s something we all learned in 8th grade civics -- if they can’t, they should get out of the way.”
When asked if the president would sign a bill solely devoted to DACA, Sanders underscored the administration’s commitment to “responsible immigration reform.”
“The president wants to see responsible immigration reform -- we can’t just take a one piece fix, we’ve got to do an overall immigration reform that is responsible and lawful,” Sanders said, noting that the administration has been clear that their commitments are to “control the border, improve vetting and immigration security.”
Sanders was further pressed over whether the president would ask Congress to fold his request for a border wall into a DACA bill.
“I don’t think the president has been shy about the fact that he wants a wall,” Sanders said. “It’s certainly something he feels is an important part of a responsible immigration package.”