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A group of business leaders representing some of the largest companies in the country urged President Trump over the weekend to leave alone an Obama-era program that shields around 650,000 young immigrants from deportation – arguing in a letter to the president that any changes would cause further economic problems and hinder the fight against the coronavirus.
The letter — sent from members of the Coalition for the American Dream — comes less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in 2017, and just a day after Trump said he plans to sign an executive order in the next few weeks which will include a “road to citizenship” for recipients of the program.
“As large American employers and employer organizations, we strongly urge you to leave the DACA program in place,” the letter stated. “DACA recipients have been critical members of our workforce, industries, and communities for years now, and they have abided by the laws and regulations of our country in order to maintain their DACA status.”
The letter — which was signed by more than 100 executives and business leaders including those from Amazon, Apple, General Motors, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Starbucks – continued: “This is no time to disrupt the economic recovery of our companies and communities, nor time to jeopardize the health and safety of these vulnerable individuals.”
The DACA program grew out of an impasse over a comprehensive immigration bill between Congress and the Obama administration in 2012. Under intense pressure from young activists, President Obama decided to formally protect people from deportation and allow them to work legally in the U.S.
DACA currently serves as a protection for young immigrants that were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, also referred to as Dreamers, to allow them to legally study, work and remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
Immigrants who are part of DACA will keep those protections following the Supreme Court ruling, but there are tens of thousands of others who could have enrolled if Trump didn’t halt the program three years ago.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that about 66,000 young immigrants meet the age requirement to join the program — 15 — but haven’t been able to do so because the government has only been renewing two-year permits for those already enrolled.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that if elected, he would send lawmakers proposed legislation on his first day in office to make DACA protections permanent.
Trump, who ran in 2016 on a platform that included clamping down on immigration, has flip-flopped on his stance toward DACA recipients.
During the last presidential campaign, he vowed to repeal DACA, but after his election, he softened his stance and said at one point that DACA recipients had nothing to worry about. Still, under pressure from immigration hard-liners in the GOP, he announced in 2017 that he was ending the program.
Trump and a bipartisan group of senators hit a stalemate in January 2018 after a compromise immigration bill was presented that would protect DACA recipients. But Trump would not agree to the measure because it did not include a provision for the U.S.- Mexico border wall, eventually leading to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Most recently, Trump on Friday vowed to sign an executive order that would provide a “road to citizenship” for DACA recipients.
“I’m going to do a big executive order; I have the power to do it as president and I’m going to make DACA a part of it,” Trump said in an interview with Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balart.
Trump added that the order wouldn’t just be for temporary relief, but would be a far more encompassing merit-based bill.
While it is unclear whether the president can grant DACA recipients a path to citizenship through executive powers, he stated it is his intention Friday.
“One of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We are going to have a road to citizenship,” Trump told Daiz-Balart.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.