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Congressional Republicans Signal Break With Trump Over DACA

Congressional Republicans are largely breaking with Trump over his expected announcement to end protections for young immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally.
Image: Milton Flores, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles
Milton Flores, a DACA program beneficiary, stands with supporters during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Friday.KYLE GRILLOT / Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will face significant backlash from Congress, including from members of his own party, if he goes through with ending protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.

While Democrats are overwhelmingly united in their effort to preserve the policy, some influential Republican lawmakers have signaled support as well for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, instituted under the Obama administration in 2012.

"It is right for there to be consequences for those who intentionally entered this country illegally," Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said in a statement Monday. "However, we as Americans do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents."

The president is leaning toward ending DACA, but with a six-month delay, possibly giving Congress a window to revamp the program, two sources told NBC News. The decision, which was first reported by Politico and is likely to come Tuesday, is not final until it is announced, the sources added.

Republican lawmakers, including some of Trump's closest allies in Congress, have publicly spoken out against the decision they say would unjustly punish those who did nothing wrong.

Related: Immigrant Advocates for DACA Keep Up the Pressure on Trump

"I don't think he should do that. I believe that this is something Congress has to fix," House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a radio interview last week.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, one of Trump's top conservative defenders in the Senate, also released a statement last week advocating for DACA's survival.

"I've urged the president not to rescind DACA, an action that would further complicate a system in serious need of a permanent, legislative solution," Hatch said. "Like the president, I've long advocated for tougher enforcement of our existing immigration laws. But we also need a workable, permanent solution for individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own."

Others in the GOP, including frequent Trump critic Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed support for Trump's measure, which he considers necessary to undoing an executive action by President Barack Obama he viewed as overreaching. But he still believes in a congressional fix.

"If President Trump makes this decision we will work to find a legislative solution to their dilemma," Graham said in a statement Monday.

Immigration hardliner Steve King, however, is pushing for an immediate end to DACA. He tweeted that the six-month delay is "Republican suicide," giving the GOP a chance to push what he called "amnesty."

Any announced change to DACA on Tuesday would coincide with Republican officials in 10 states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, threatening to sue if Trump doesn't end the program.

On the flip side, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday they would file a lawsuit if DACA is terminated.

"The poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty — written by the descendant of early Jewish immigrants — promises this nation will 'lift its lamp' for the huddled masses," Schneiderman said. "New York will never break that promise. And neither will my office."

The DACA issue will be just the latest addition to an already packed agenda facing Congress this fall. Top issues include approving an aid package for Hurricane Harvey, funding the government beyond the Sept. 30 shutdown deadline and raising the debt ceiling.

And Democrats and independents, who have expressed outrage in recent days amid reports the White House is moving to end the program, remain united in their support for DACA.

"Taking legal protections away from 800,000 young people raised in this country is absolutely counter to what we stand for as a nation," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

And Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas asked on Twitter: "How does a five year old decide to break the law?"