President Donald Trump is expected to rescind an Obama administration policy that protects from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants who as children entered the country illegally, setting the stage for a fight with U.S. business leaders and lawmakers over tough immigration policy.
A senior administration official told Reuters on Thursday that the plan could be announced as early as Friday and that Trump would let the so-called Dreamers stay until their work permits expire.
Trump has promised to crack down on illegal immigration to give more jobs to Americans. But business leaders say the Dreamers make important economic contributions and that ending the program will hit economic growth and tax revenue.
The technology industry quickly mobilized opposition, as it did to Trump's travel ban in January for visitors from Muslim-majority countries. Microsoft President Brad Smith said the country cannot afford to "lose the tremendous talent of these individuals."
On Capitol Hill, Democratic lawmakers and a handful of Republicans urged Trump not to scrap the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or "Dreamers" program.
"@POTUS must uphold pledge 2 treat #DREAMers with "great heart" + give these young folks certainty 2 stay in US, the only country they know," U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who is Cuban-American, said on Twitter.
Trump, a Republican, had pledged on the election campaign trail to scrap all of Democratic former President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration.
What to do about the so-called Dreamers has been actively debated within the White House and Trump administration. One senior administration official described the debate as a "tug of war" between factions in favor of the move and those opposed.
Officials, believing the DACA program to be ultimately unconstitutional, want Congress to impose a legislative fix for the Dreamers, two officials said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump and his senior advisers were still reviewing the DACA program and that the president not made a final decision on how to proceed.
Asked whether Trump still stood by a comment in February about treating Dreamers "with heart," Sanders said: "Absolutely, the president stands by his statement."
The overwhelming majority of the Dreamer immigrants came from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Over 200,000 of them live in California, while 100,000 are in Texas, which is struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey. New York, Illinois, and Florida also have large numbers of DACA recipients.