NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s attorney general on Friday cited a “human element” in abandoning a planned legal challenge of a federal program that offers a reprieve from deportation to thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program created by President Barack Obama’s administration provides temporary work permits to nearly 800,000 young people.
A group of states that had included Tennessee set a Tuesday deadline for President Donald Trump to end the program or face a court challenge.
But Republican Attorney General Herbert Slatery said in a letter to Tennessee’s U.S. senators on Friday that he believes congressional action on the matter “is a better approach.”
Trump has not yet announced which approach he’ll take. Asked by reporters what he would say to young immigrants who are awaiting his move and are scared about their fate, the president replied: “I think the dreamers are terrific.”
Slatery said in the letter to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker that “constitutional infirmities” cause him to expect a court challenge would be successful.
“There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored,” Slatery wrote. “Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benefit and service to our country.”
“They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country,” he said.
Slatery is a longtime spiritual and legal adviser to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. But his previous position on the DACA challenge appeared to put him at odds with the governor, who has spoken in favor of offering in-state tuition to students who brought to the country illegally as children.
“I have some concerns about that,” Haslam told reporters earlier this week, before Slatery removed Tennessee from the threatened legal challenge. “I think he had some legal reasons he thought that that was the right thing to do.”