Trump hosts Hispanic Heritage event as his administration begins phasing out DACA protections for young immigrants

Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- On the same day his administration stopped accepting applications from so-called Dreamers for protection from deportation, President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed Latino American leaders to the White House to honor their cultural heritage in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

In rambling remarks, Trump said the United States remains "a beacon" to people of other nations and lauded young attendees for the contributions they would make to the nation -- notes at odds with his restrictive immigration talk and policies, including the phase-out of the Deferred Action for Childhoood Arrivals program.

Trump did not mention his decision, which took effect at midnight, to shut down DACA. Since 2012, the Obama-era program has given temporary legal status, for two years at a time, to some 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children.

Nearly 90 percent of DACA beneficiaries are Latino.

Nor did Trump take the opportunity to renew his call for Congress to act to make those protections permanent by writing them into law. As of Friday, the government stopped taking applications for new or renewed two-year work permits and deportation deferrals under DACA. Existing permits begin expiring on March 6, 2018.

At one point, Trump pointed to members of a youth orchestra from Miami and said, "There is no task too large and no dream beyond your reach."

Trump also congratulated his administration, as he has many times, for "doing a great job" responding to Hurricane Maria's devastation in Puerto Rico. "We love Puerto Rico," he said, three times mimicking a Spanish accent to repeat the name of the U.S. territory.

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Trump said the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, called him on Thursday to thank the United States for sending rescue teams to help after a deadly earthquake that rocked Mexico City last month.

Their relationship has been tense since the 2016 campaign, given Trump's adversarial rhetoric against immigration from Mexico and his demands that Mexico pay for a border wall. But Trump had kind words for Pena Nieto on Friday, telling the White House gathering, "You have a wonderful president in Mexico, I can tell you that."

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