MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Next Tuesday, September 5, President Trump faces an ultimatum on his immigration stand. Tuesday is the deadline set by 10 state Republican attorneys general for the president to end DACA. DACA is the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. The Republican attorneys general say President Trump needs to shut it down or stand back and let them fight it in the courts. Ending DACA, though, has not turned out to be as simple as it sounded that day back in June 2015 when Trump announced his run for the presidency.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration - immediately.
KELLY: But upon taking office, Trump did not end DACA immediately. At a White House press conference back in February, he was sounding a lot less certain about the fate of the program.
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TRUMP: The DACA situation is a very, very - it's a very difficult thing for me because, you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do. And, you know, the law is rough.
KELLY: The law is rough.
OK, NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley is on the line now. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Good morning. So what can the president do? I mean, what are his options at this point?
HORSLEY: There's a spectrum. He could continue the program as is. He could phase it out over some gradual period of time. Or he could terminate the program abruptly and basically say to these 800,000 young people, you are now immediately eligible for deportation. It's also possible that Congress could step in and offer some sort of protection for these DREAMers. That would get around the argument that DACA is an illegal abuse of presidential power.
KELLY: And how much of a deadline is this Tuesday deadline? I mean, what would that actually mean practically if the president simply chooses not to take action?
HORSLEY: Well, presumably, the attorney generals (ph) of those Republican states would then go through with their threat to file a legal suit. And it would be up to the attorney general, the U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to defend the federal government. Of course, Sessions is a hard-liner on immigration, though, so his defense might not be very robust.
KELLY: OK. So political questions here, legal questions of course - what about for the young people who will actually, practically be impacted - who are relying on DACA to protect them legally? If the president or if a court down the road decides to terminate it, what does it mean for them?
HORSLEY: These folks are in a very vulnerable position. You know, they took a gamble. They accepted the government's invitation to step out of the shadows. Back in 2012, when the DACA program began, it was expected to be a stopgap measure while Congress considered and passed a more comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system. That didn't happen. And now these so-called DREAMers are in a really tough spot. They have raised their hands. They have identified themselves to the government. In some cases, they have also indirectly identified family members. If DACA were to end, it wouldn't necessarily mean an immediate knock at the door from immigration officials, but that is certainly the very real threat.
KELLY: All right. Thanks very much, Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome, Mary Louise.
KELLY: That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.