Sen. Orrin Hatch tells Trump to save DACA program for young immigrants

FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2015 file photo, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah' in Salt Lake City. Hatch is backing a Supreme Court challenge to one of the keystones of President Barack Obama's health care law. Now, he says he's preparing a plan to help people who might be hurt if his side wins the case. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next week in a case by conservatives and Republicans that says many subsidies the law provides for millions of people are unconstitutional. They argue that the law only allows such subsidies for the 13 states that set up their own marketplaces to sell health insurance, not the 37 states that use the federal HealthCare.gov website. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch called President Donald Trump on Thursday and urged him not to dissolve an Obama-era program protecting young immigrants from deportation.

“Like the president, I’ve long advocated for tougher enforcement of our existing immigration laws,” the Republican senator said in a statement. “But we also need a workable, permanent solution for individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here.”

Trump said Friday that he expects to announce his plans for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, by Monday at the latest. Two hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said a decision would instead come Tuesday. 

It’s still unclear what Trump’s determination could mean for the program. When asked if those in the DACA should be worried, the president responded: “We love the Dreamers. We love everybody.”

Hatch suggests that rescinding the program “would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent, legislative solution.” The senator was an original sponsor of the Dream Act in 2001, which did not pass but would have allowed undocumented students to pursue an education.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also pushed for an extension of the program. Detractors suggest immigrants exploit DACA to gain legal status.

“While good-intentioned,” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said, the program is unconstitutional. He supports two current bills — the BRIDGE Act and the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act — that would offer temporary relief from deportation with “provisional protected presence” and work permits. The requirements for approval are nearly identical to what exists in current law.

“This authority clearly lies within the purviews of Congress,” Stewart said, “which is why I am supporting legislation that bars the removal of individuals who were brought here under the age of 15 who are pursuing education, have recently graduated or are serving in the armed forces.”

DACA, implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, has granted permission to 800,000 immigrants to stay in the United States for work or school; more than 10,500 of those individuals were approved in Utah, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Recipients must reapply for the program every two years, which requires background checks and a fee.

Attorneys general from 10 states sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June, threatening a lawsuit if Trump doesn’t announce plans to phase out DACA by Tuesday. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is not one of them.

About 100 people gathered at the Utah Capitol on Thursday night rallying to save the program

“Not knowing what‘s going to happen, it’s a bit scary,” said Maria Fernanda, who came to the United States when she was 10 years old. ”But we didn’t have DACA before, so I know, no matter what happens, we’ll find a way to make it work.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maria Fernanda speaks at a rally at the State Capitol building in Salt Lake City to "remind Senator Hatch and Senator Lee that DACA is #HereToStay, Thursday August 31, 2017.