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Trump make a decision with ‘Dreamers’ program, and all press were surprised!

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday said he would announce a decision by Tuesday on whether he will end the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, declaring, “We love the Dreamers” even as his White House grappled with how to wind down their legal status.

Mr. Trump has agonized publicly over the fate of immigrants who were brought to the United States without authorization as children, and who are now protected from deportation and allowed to work under the five-year-old program created by his predecessor.

In recent days, White House officials have recommended that the president end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which currently shields about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who would be subject to potential deportation to countries that many of them have not seen since birth.

Several administration officials said that Mr. Trump is likely to phase out the program, but his advisers have engaged in a vigorous behind-the-scenes debate over precisely how to do so. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision was final, also cautioned that the president was conflicted about the issue and could suddenly change his mind.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump pledged to immediately terminate the program. But he has stalled for months, expressing anguish about a sympathetic group of undocumented immigrants he has called “incredible kids.” His hard-line advisers, however, have counseled that the program was illegal and must not be maintained.

Asked on Friday whether DACA recipients, often called Dreamers, should be worried, Mr. Trump did not respond directly, but he did express his sympathy.

“We love the Dreamers — we love everybody,” the president said in the Oval Office, surrounded by faith leaders after signing a proclamation of a day of prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. “We think the Dreamers are terrific.”

Later, he told reporters he had “great feeling for DACA,” while declining to answer repeated questions about whether he believes the program is legal.

But in recent days, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, have privately made it clear to Mr. Trump that they could not defend the program in court, and a group of state attorneys general led by Ken Paxton in Texas have threatened to mount a legal challenge if the president did not act to end it by Tuesday.

Complicating the calculus for Mr. Trump has been the storm pummeling Texas, the state with the second-highest concentration of DACA recipients, after California. John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, has argued privately that the president can take his time on the decision, given that Mr. Paxton is unlikely to follow through on his threat in the short term, with parts of his state under water, two officials said.

And it is not lost on the president that ending the program now — with many Dreamers directly impacted by Harvey — would appear particularly hardhearted.

Asked Friday whether the Dreamers impacted by the storm in Texas and Louisiana were weighing on the president as he contemplated the fate of the program, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “The decision itself is weighing on him, certainly.”

That much was evident on Friday, as Mr. Trump sent mixed messages about when the final call would come.

In a midday appearance in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump first told reporters the decision was at hand, scheduled for later Friday or over the weekend. About an hour later, during another set of off-the-cuff Oval Office remarks, he said the final word would come over the weekend, or Monday at the latest. Only two hours after that, Ms. Sanders pushed the timeline still further, saying the announcement would come on Tuesday.

As the White House struggled to get its rollout in place, pressure was building from a diverse coalition of supporters, including immigration advocacy groups, business executives and some elected Republican officials, for Mr. Trump to keep the program.

“I actually don’t think he should do that,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said of ending DACA as he spoke to a radio station in his home state of Wisconsin. “I believe that this is something Congress has to fix.”

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Republican, issued a statement saying, “I’ve urged the president not to rescind DACA.” He called for a permanent legislative solution to address recipients’ legal status.

Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida also weighed in late Friday, issuing a statement in which he said, “I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents.

“These kids must be allowed to pursue the American dream,” Mr. Scott said, “and Congress must act on this immediately.”

Four hundred business leaders also released a letter on Friday urging Mr. Trump not to end the program. They argued that denying Dreamers work authorization could result in the loss of $460.3 billion from the United States economy and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.

“Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy,” wrote the executives, who included Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard and Mary Barra of General Motors, a former member of Mr. Trump’s business advisory council. “They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”

Mr. Trump’s DACA dilemma intensified over the last few months after Mr. Paxton of Texas and nine other state attorneys general wrote to Mr. Sessions in June threatening to sue over DACA unless the administration phased out the program by Sept. 5.

Yet even their zeal seemed to be waning as Mr. Trump continued to push off a decision on what should be done. On Friday, one of the attorneys general, Herbert H. Slatery III of Tennessee, said in a letter to Senator Bob Corker, another Republican of Tennessee, that he no longer supported moving forward with a legal challenge to DACA. “There is a human element,” to the issue “that is not lost on me and should not be ignored,” Mr. Slatery wrote.

He also called for action by Congress to normalize the Dreamers’ status, through legislation co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois.

Pro-immigration activists argued it would be particularly callous for Mr. Trump to end the program as Texas is struggling to recover from Harvey.

“If DACA were to be repealed, they’re going to be going after many young immigrants and families that have been affected by Harvey, that have been trying to keep their lives together,” said Efrén C. Olivares, the racial and economic justice director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Considering a repeal of DACA would be just shocking for anyone who claims to care about Texas and its communities.”

Oscar Hernandez, a DACA recipient who is an organizer at United We Dream Houston, joined a conference call on Friday arranged by supporters of the program from the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston where he was helping families displaced by the storm, vowing, “We’re here to stay.”

In the community of young, undocumented immigrants, that sentiment was broadly felt.

“I thought I was very distant from the days of life without DACA,” said Marcela Zhou, a 26-year-old third-year medical student at the University of California at Los Angeles, who was born in Mexico. “It is scary to go back to that uncertainty.”

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