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Sessions: "Dreamers" Program "Is Being Rescinded" Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired September 5, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- always talking about dreamers for other people. I want the children that are growing up in the United States to be dreamers, also. They are not dreaming right now.

We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties.

It's a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.

We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What does that love look like today, though? Stand by to find out. Very, very soon, we are going to keep our eye on the Justice Department as we wait for the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to make the announcement.

Joining me now, CNN's Dana Bash and Chris Cilizza are here, CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, and also joining us, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, Alfonso Aguilar, and California's secretary of state, Alex Padilla. Everyone, thank you so much for being here. Dana, what do you make of this moment?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's obviously one of the many consequential moments and consequential decisions that President Trump has to make. It was put on his lap, as you played there, by his predecessor, by President Obama, who said he only acted by executive order by executive action because Congress couldn't do the job, which was true.

We covered it. We saw it. Congress couldn't do pretty much anything regarding immigration and dealing with the undocumented immigrants in this country, especially and even those who -- a vast majority of Democrats we put them together agree on.

That is this segment, this 800,000 or so segment of population of people who came here through no fault of their own, no choice of their own brought her illegally by their parents. So, this is going to, I think you said it perfectly, Kate.

This is going to spark a very big fight, one of many now, a really deeply emotional one within the Republican Party while we are texting with conservatives who helped elect the president and very much into keeping his promises to the base saying this is war.

That they don't believe he is keeping his promise by not explicitly saying he is ending the program by punting the Congress, and then a flip side, this is going to be a real test of whether Congress can get its act together, whether there can be bipartisanship.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to interrupt you for one person, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions. said to make the announcement at the Department of Justice.

[11:02:36]

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good morning.

I'm here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.

The DACA program was implemented in 2012, and essentially provided a legal status for recipients or a renewable two-year term work authorization and other benefits, including participation in the Social Security program, to 800,000 mostly adult illegal aliens.

The policy was implemented unilaterally, to great controversy and legal concern, after Congress rejected legislative proposals to extend similar benefits to -- on numerous occasions to this same group of illegal aliens. In other words, the executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions.

Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.

We inherited from our founders and have advanced an unsurpassed legal heritage which is the foundation of our freedom, our safety and our prosperity. As attorney general, it is my duty to ensure that the laws of the United States are enforced and that the constitutional order is upheld; no greater good for the overall health and wellbeing of our republic than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law.

Societies where the rule of law is treasured are societies that tend to flourish and succeed. Societies where the rule of law is subject to political whims and personal biases tend to become societies afflicted by corruption, poverty and human suffering. To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. It's just that simple. There is an open -- that would be an open borders policy and the American people have rightly rejected that.

Therefore, the nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all cannot be accepted. This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way. It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.

It is with these principles and duties in mind, and in light of imminent litigation, that we reviewed the Obama administration's DACA policy. Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision that was affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 5th Circuit specifically concluded that DACA "had not been implemented in a fashion that allowed sufficient discretion," and that "DAPA was foreclosed by Congress's careful plan," close quote. In other words, the immigration law that Congress passed foreclosed this possibility of DACA.

In other words, it was inconsistent with the Constitution's separation of powers. That decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court on an equally undivided basis. If we were to keep the Obama administration's executive amnesty policy, the likeliest outcome is that it would too be enjoined just as was DAPA.

The Department of Justice has advised the president and the Department of Homeland Security that the Department of Homeland Security should begin an orderly, lawful wind-down, including the cancellation of the memo that authorized this program. Acting Secretary Duke has chosen appropriately to initiate a wind-down process. This will enable the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an orderly change and fulfill the desire of this administration to create a time period for Congress to act should it so choose. We firmly believe this is the responsible path. Simply put, if we are to further our goal of strengthening the constitutional order and the rule of law in America, the Department of Justice cannot defend this overreach. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee was clear about the enormous constitutional infirmities raised by this action. He said, quote, in his testimony, "In ordering this blanket exception, President Obama was nullifying part of a law that he simply disagreed with. If a president can claim sweeping discretion to suspend key federal laws, the entire legislative process becomes little more than a pretense. The circumvention of the legislation process not only undermines the authority of this branch" -- he's referring to the legislative branch -- "but destabilizes the tripartite system as a whole."

So this is not a little matter.

Ending the previous administration's disrespect for the legislative process is an important first step. Our immigration policies should serve the interests of the people of the United States, lawful immigrant and native-born alike. Congress should carefully and thoughtfully pursue the types of reforms that are right for the American people.

Our nation is comprised of good and decent people who want their government's leaders to fulfill their promises and advance an immigration policy that serves the national interest. We are people of compassion and we are people of law. But there's nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration law.

Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and terrorism.

The compassionate thing to do is end the lawlessness, enforce our laws and if Congress chooses to those laws, to do so through the process set forth by our founders, in a way that advances the interests of the American people.

That is what the president has promised to do and has delivered to the American people.

Under President Trump's leadership, this administration has made great progress in the last few months toward establishing a lawful and constitutional immigration system. This makes us safer and more secure. It will further economically the lives of millions who are struggling. And it will enable our country to more effectively teach new immigrants about our system of government and to assimilate them to the cultural understandings that support it.

A substantial progress in reducing illegal immigration at our border seen in recent months is almost entirely due to the leadership of President Trump and his inspired immigration officers. But the problem is not yet solved, and without more action, we could see illegality rise again rather than be eliminated.

As a candidate and now in office, President Trump has offered specific ideas and legislative solutions that will protect American workers, increase wages and salaries, defend the national security, ensure the public's safety, and increase the general well-being of the American people. He has worked closely with many members of Congress, including in the introduction of the RAISE Act, which would produce enormous benefits for our country.

And this is how our democratic process works. There are many powerful interest groups in the country and every one of them has a constitutional right to advocate their views and represent whomever they choose. But the Department of Justice does not represent any narrow interest or any subset of the American people. We represent all of the American people and protect the integrity of our Constitution. That is our charge.

We at the Department of Justice are proud and honored to work to advance this vision for America and to do our best each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people. Thank you very much.

[11:12:43]

BOLDUAN: All right. Just listening right there to Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing that this administration is rescinding the DACA program put in place by President Obama in 2012 to protect some 800,000 immigrants, people who are brought here as children illegally by their parents.

They have been protected from deportation. Attorney General Sessions calling it a circumvention of immigration law, unconstitutional exercise, overreach and disrespect for the legislative process.

That is why they are calling for a lawful and orderly wind down. A big announcement. A lot to analyze. With us, the panel is back with me. Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst is joining us as well. Jeffrey, what do you make? What's your first reaction to the announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, 800,000 people are in a lot of trouble, 800,000 people who grew up in this country are very much at risk of being deported because I don't think anyone believes that Congress is on the verge of passing a legislative DACA, as it were.

So, I think, you know, just in simple human terms, these people are in jeopardy. As for the legality of DACA, whether President Obama had the authority to do it, that's a very hotly contested issue.

Some conservative judges in Texas and in the Fifth Circuit had said that he did not have the authority, but many other people believe the president did have the authority and the Supreme Court would ultimately uphold DACA, but we'll never know now because DACA is off the books.

So, the question is, whether Congress will act at all. I certainly haven't seen indication that Congress is ready act to defend these 800,000 people. I think they are in serious, serious trouble of being thrown out of this country.

BOLDUAN: Chris Cilizza, what do you make of the fact that this announcement, the attorney general spent a lot of time talking about the president is doing this and what the president has done to put the wheels in motion here in place.

But the announcement is not coming from the president that DACA is being rescinded even though it's a presidential order. The announcement came from the attorney general.

[11:15:01] CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. With whom the president of the United States has had a testy relationship, Kate, calling him beleaguered among other things. A little bit there. Not sort of out of protocol.

It's not as though the secretary of interior was making the announcement. But for someone who likes big moments, you would think Donald Trump would be interested in this. He did, as you noted at the top of the show, preempt the Sessions announcement saying the ball is in your court, essentially, Congress, confirming what we said, which is that we were going to get this delay.

I just, listening to Jeff Sessions, I was thinking back to after the 2012 election when the Republican National Committee convened a group of smart consultants, campaign professionals from across the ideological spectrum to try and figure out what was wrong with the party and how to fix it.

It's called the growth and opportunity project. They put out a long document with recommendations on either the first or second page of it, they basically say this cannot be a white only party, we have to figure a way to reach Hispanic voters.

No matter what you think of Sessions reliance on this rule of law has to hold or society crumbles, which essentially the argument he is making. This, coupled with the things that Donald Trump has said on the campaign trail, I'm suspicious that Congress will get anything done on this if DACA winds up being rolled back.

It makes that 2012 blueprint, that autopsy feel like it was written 150 years ago. The party has gone in a drastically different direction led by Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: But in this moment, Paul Callan, we were listening, you are sitting here with me, an orderly and lawful wind down. Is it clear to you what that means coming from the AG?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not. I think this may not be as dire as people thin because he's not saying we are eliminating DACA today and we are going to start deporting the 800,000.

BOLDUAN: I also didn't hear six months or the time period.

CALLAN: I didn't hear a time period. I think what that means is if Congress can't put together a solution to this problem, the Trump administration has the right to extend the wind down period, unless there's a court lawsuit that's filed, which they lose. So, I think there are a lot of open questions with respect to this statement.

BOLDUAN: Alfonso Aguilar, let me bring you in on this. What is your reaction to this announcement from the attorney general as he laid it out? What do you think of the case that he made?

ALFONSO AGUILAR, PRESIDENT, LATINO PARTNERSHIP FOR CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: I disagree with the last statement. This is a horrible announcement. It's insulting and sad. If the goal of the president of the United States was to deal with heart, as he said, with DACA recipients, then I have to say the president failed miserably.

I understand if you have a problem with the constitutionality of how DACA was created. It wasn't created in the constitutionally appropriate way. I agree with that, but if you really care about them, the president should make a commitment to support legislation to provide a permanent status to DACA recipients and to ensure that Congress passes legislation.

You know, it's not enough to punt to Congress and say it's your responsibility, it's a legislative responsibility. The president is part of the constitutional, political process. The only way to get a Dream Act legislation is if the president gives the green light to that legislation and works with Congress to ensure that this passes.

Right now, the only thing I'm hearing is I'm ending the program, it's the responsibility of Congress and, frankly, to have Jeff Sessions, the attorney general announce this, it's really insulting to the Latino community.

Jeff Sessions is seen as somebody who has taken very hard line positions in immigration, certainly not a friend of the Hispanic community. They could have had someone else make the announcement. The acting secretary of Homeland Security, who is responsible for the DACA program. Not the attorney general. So, overall, this is just terrible.

BOLDUAN: Dana, go ahead.

BASH: That's exactly why Jeff Sessions was chosen to do this. He is the attorney general of the United States, but he also is somebody who represents, for the conservative base, somebody who is going to fight their fight.

And already, the conservative base is upset that they are even considering punting this to Congress, they are not just saying it is over and done with and the president won't sign anything that would allow the 800,000 dreamers to stay in this country.

That was clearly done on purpose because, Chris Cilizza, the Republican Party that tried to get to the point where they are going to reach out beyond kind of white Republicans, that went bye-bye in a large way in 2016.

They know that. I also do think, again, Jeffrey started this on the human point of view. He didn't get into a lot of specifics on what this actually means for the lives of these people living here as Americans as very much integrated into the fabric of American society.

[11:20:11] And the initial sense is that while ICE agents aren't going to be knocking down doors and looking for them, if they find them, then it's going to be a judgment call as to whether or not these people should be deported or not. So, that is scary for people who voluntarily gave up their information.

BOLDUAN: Alfonso, wait a second. I want to bring in Alex Padilla. How do you want to see Democrats respond to this announcement? What do you want to see Democrats say in Congress, now?

ALEX PADILLA (D), CALIFORNIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me just echo Alfonso for a second here. President Trump promised to show heart. It is not showing heart. It's showing callousness and cowardness by not having the guts to make the statement himself. They put Attorney General Sessions on the podium to make the statement on his behalf. The first two things that come to mind are, number one, he's trying to, you know, share responsibility here for his decision, his choice, his action by punting it to Congress or attempting to punt it to Congress.

It's not going to work. If you look at the House with the Freedom Caucus with control over the Republican conference and the rules of the Senate where, you know, a member can hold an item. It takes 60 votes to get anything passed.

I'm normally an optimist. The path they have laid out to save DACA is not a promising one. The other thing, as a Latino in the United States, I can't help but note the hypocrisy here.

Attorney General Sessions quoted the reference, the Obama signing of DACA initially as, quote, "nullifying" a law that he disagreed with. Just ten days ago, Donald Trump pardons Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona. Why?

Because he was nullifying a violation of law that he disagreed with. So what kind of message does this sends that in a span of 10 days, you pardon Sheriff Arpaio, who was found to violate the civil rights of Latinos, and 10 days later, you take these important protections away from DACA participants? It's unconscionable.

BOLDUAN: We have much more to discuss. We have much more to learn in terms of details on one point. When you talk about not having faith in what Congress can pull off, there is one element of this that might be different.

You do hear from Republican leaders even though they have had a problem getting their caucuses and conferences together so far, recently. You do hear them being supportive of some kind of solution, permanent solution when it comes to protecting "Dreamers" and giving them more permanent protections that would not be to the whim of a president, not an executive order.

We are getting some more details right now if you all could stick with me on how this would work. More detail on what was announced by the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Joining me now is CNN's Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue, at the State Department at the front when Jeff Sessions was announcing it. What are you picking up right now, Ariane?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, Kate, as you heard, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he is going to end this program within six months. He called it an orderly phase out and will come as a crushing blow to 800,000 current participants.

Some of the details, there are going to be no new DACA applications accepted after today. The people who are in the process of renewal, they will be able to go forward for the two years.

But, those people who need to renew, within the next six months, they have to do it within the next month. The status afterwards, once it expires is that they are illegal, but, maybe will be a lower priority.

A little more on this program as you talked about it, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was under the Obama administration, immediately controversial legally.

Keep in mind, Donald Trump complained about it on the trail. But Jeff Sessions, when he was a senator, he worried about its constitutionality and indeed Texas and several other states have come forward and they really put an ultimatum to Jeff Sessions.

That is why we are here today. They said, look, rescind this or we are going to sue. Jeff Sessions looked at similar Obama-era policies that had been struck by the court saying that the president exceeded his authority and he came to the conclusion that he couldn't defend it here.

So, that's why we are here today. They are all talking about the issue going to Congress, but the problem for the "Dreamers," Kate, is that Congress says that they haven't been active on that. That's what's worrying the "Dreamers" -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Ariane, more details, important detail -- a little bit more detail, which is important right now of what the next six months looks like and means for those "Dreamers," who are caught here with a lot of questions.

[11:25:08] Ariane laying some of those important details out right there. There's still a lot more questions to be answered. Right now, protesters have been gathering outside the White House, even before this decision came down, especially now since the decision has been announced.

CNN White House reporter, Jeremy Diamond is there right now. Jeremy, who is it?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right. We are outside the White House where several hundred protesters have gathered to protest against this removal of DACA protections.

I'm here with Greisa Martinez, who is with United We Dream, an advocacy group that fights for these "Dreamers." You are a "Dreamer" yourself. What is your reaction to this decision by the Trump administration announced just moments ago?

GREISA MARTINEZ, DACA RECIPIENT: So, United We Dream is ready fight back. We know this is a symbol of what we saw in Charlottesville. Another sign of white supremacist taking over. We will not be thrown back into the shadows. We will not go back in silence.

We are calling on Congress, Republicans and Democrats to deliver a clean Dream Act that does not put 11 million people in the pathway of deportation. What happened today is that 800,000 young people like myself were put in the pathway of deportation by Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.

And Donald Trump didn't even allow himself (inaudible) his base. I'm here showing my face because I understand that I'm fighting for the dignity and protections of all Americans in defending our democracy. I will continue to do that.

DIAMOND: You obviously issuing a message of defiance now just as you did moments ago, speaking in front of the White House. Do you have any worries, though? Are you concerned? Are you afraid at all of what this means for your future when your DACA protections end?

MARTINEZ: I know is that immigrants like myself are here to stay. People across the country would want to see someone that is crying and afraid. I will tell you, I believe in our democracy. I believe in the dream my parents crossed the border for 21 years ago.

So, it is scary. It is -- we are in a moment of uncertainty. I's more than undocumented young people. It's our democracy. We call on Republicans, Democrats to get rid of the gridlock in Congress and deliver relief for undocumented young people that does not put our families in danger.

DIAMOND: Do you have hope that Congress is actually going to pass this law? This is something that they have been trying to do for 16 years now, I think, trying to pass a Dream Act in Congress. Do you have hope that President Trump's decision to remove that executive order protection might actually spur Congress into action?

MARTINEZ: We know the person responsible here is Donald Trump. He is the leader of the Republican Party. The Republicans are in charge of Congress. If he wants a bill, he should get a bill. What is clear is immigrant young people are not connected to more deportations of 11 million people.

It is not connected to the wall. It is purely what all Americans, Microsoft, Apple, all these came out to protect immigrant young people like myself. We will not stop until 11 million people can live in peace and my mother can live without worrying about what is going to happen to me. I believe in that. We'll continue to do that.

DIAMOND: I want to know because, you know, the president, on the campaign trail, talked about DACA and rescinding DACA protections. In the first months of his administration, he signaled he would treat "Dreamers" with heart, signaling he might keep those protections. Do you have hope of that or do you feel betrayed? What was your reaction to that?

MARTINEZ: If this is the way that Donald Trump shows love, I don't want it. In six months or today, it puts people like myself in the pipeline for deportation. It is owned by him and his party. Yes, I'm disappointed in him, on his issues on immigration, how he is handling everything all across the country. People are concerned about democracy. We are ready to fight like hell to protect it.

DIAMOND: Greisa, thank you so much. This is just one of the voices out here today. It is echoed by many people expressing this sense of defiance, but also potentially a little bit of hope that Congress might finally act on a clean Dream Act. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: All right. Jeremy, thank you so much. Thank you so much for bringing her on. I really appreciate it.

To that point, when she says a glimmer of hope of Congress acting, we are getting lot of reaction coming importantly from House Speaker Paul Ryan, his initial reaction to the formal announcement of the drawing down of this program.

This is what he writes, in part, "Ending this program fulfills a promise that President Trump made to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branch. Now, there is more to do and the president has called on Congress to act. The president's announcement does not revoke permits immediately.

And it is important that those affected have clarity on how this interim period will be carried out. At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own --