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WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump would announce his decision Tuesday on an Obama-era policy that allows young people who came here illegally as children to remain in the United States.
"[Trump] loves people and he wants to make sure that this decision is done correctly," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during Friday's afternoon briefing.
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The announcement is likely to affect 787,000 so-called "dreamers" who signed up for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program was an acknowledgement from the government that dreamers wouldn't be deported, and they were authorized to seek work permits and attend college.
Asked what aspects of the DACA issue the president is still weighing, Sanders said he's giving "this very important issue" the time, effort, and attention that it deserves — working "through every bit" of the immigration issue.
"It's not a decision the president takes lightly," she said.
The president initially said his announcement would be on Friday or over the weekend; he later said it would be during the weekend or possibly on Monday, which is Labor Day.
"We love dreamers; we love everybody...the dreamers are terrific,'' Trump told reporters when asked about the program at the White House on Friday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., urged the president on Friday not to cancel the program. Asked during an interview with WCLO Radio in Wisconsin if Trump should be looking at "pulling back" on DACA, Ryan said, "I actually don't think he should do that, and I believe this is something Congress has to fix."
Technology companies expressed their support for the program. Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said the U.S. cannot afford to lose "the tremendous talent of these individuals."
Other Republicans have more strongly supported DACA. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said on Twitter, "@POTUS must uphold pledge 2 treat #DREAMers with "great heart" + give these young folks certainty 2 stay in US, the only country they know."
Officials said some aides in the White House were worried about canceling the program as residents of Texas and Louisiana were struggling with unprecedented flooding caused by the hurricane. The National Immigration Law Center estimates that 144,000 DACA participants live in those two states.
Advocates for immigration say 97 percent of DACA participants are working or in school.
Begun by President Barack Obama in 2012, the program allows eligible young people to seek DACA protection for renewable two-year periods. Applicants can file when they turn 15, and immigration experts say the program could end up covering 1.3 million young people if it were allowed to continue. Requests for renewals are now being filed at the rate of about 8,000 a week.
If the program is ended by simply blocking any further applications, 1,100 young people a day would lose their work permits and would no longer be assured they could remain in the U.S., though they would not face the prospect of immediate deportation.
Republican officials from 10 states threatened to sue the administration over the program if it's not ended by Sept. 5, putting pressure on the White House to make a decision. Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the group said the government should stop accepting DACA renewal applications, allowing those now in effect to continue until their two-year period expires.
During the campaign, Trump said DACA protected people here illegally, granting them a form of amnesty, and allowing them to compete with American citizens for jobs.
But the program has proven to be a popular one. A recent NBC News-Survey Monkey poll found 64 percent of respondents supported it, compared with 30 percent who opposed it.
Despite tough rhetoric on immigration during the campaign, Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity in August 2016 that the U.S. had to "work with" those undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for many years and contributed to society.
"No citizenship," Trump said at the time, suggesting a requirement for payment of any back taxes. "There's no amnesty, but we work with them."