Obama Says Trump Shouldn’t Force Undocumented Children to Hide

  • The president says American people wouldn’t want kids deported
  • About 728,000 undocumented youth registered for Obama program

Obama News Conference: Trump, Presidential Transition

President Barack Obama urged President-elect Donald Trump not to deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who have enrolled in a program to temporarily protect them from being removed from the country.

Trump should "think long and hard before they are endangering the status of who, for all practical purposes, are American kids," Obama said Monday at a White House news conference. "These are kids who were brought here by their parents. They did nothing wrong. They’ve gone to school, they’ve pledged allegiance to the flag. By definition, if they’re part of this program, they are solid, wonderful young people with good character."

Trump campaigned on a promise to deport the more than 11 million people in the country illegally, floating the idea of creating a deportation force in addition to his signature promise to build a wall along the southern border.

Fear has spiked among those who came to the U.S. illegally as children and registered for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program launched in 2012 under to provide temporary protection from deportation.

Those who joined the program are now concerned the personal information they gave the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could be used by the Trump administration to track them down and deport them to the countries of their birth. To qualify for the program, applicants were required to submit information not only about themselves, but parents and relatives who may also be undocumented. Around 728,000 immigrants are currently enrolled.

"It is my strong belief the majority of the American people would not want to suddenly see those kids having to start hiding again," Obama said. "That is something I will encourage the president-elect to look at."

‘Getting Them Out’

Trump said in an interview with "60 Minutes" broadcast Sunday that he would initially focus on deporting people with criminal records or gang affiliations. The Obama administration has focused its considerable deportation efforts on the same kinds of people.

"We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate them," he said.

Trump said that after deporting criminals and gang members and completing construction of a border wall, he would "make a determination" about others in the country illegally. He said many of the remainder were "terrific people" but did not elaborate further on how he would approach the issue of their undocumented status.

It’s also not clear whether Trump will order the Department of Homeland Security to suspend the DACA program and halt issuance of work permits to Dreamers, as children brought to the country illegally are called by their advocates.

— With assistance by Lauren Etter

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