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Obama speaks up as Trump targets Dreamers

For only the third time since leaving office, Barack Obama has spoken up to criticize one of his successor's priorities.
President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6, 2016, about the administration's approach to counterterrorism campaign. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)
President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6, 2016, about the administration's approach to counterterrorism campaign.

Just two days before the end of his presidency, Barack Obama hosted a White House press conference in which he said he expected the new administration and Congress to make their own determinations about the nation's direction, and by and large, he intended to stay out of it.

Obama acknowledged at the time, however, that there might be exceptions to the rule. "There's a difference," the outgoing president explained, "between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake." By way of an example, Obama specifically pointed to the fate of Dreamers.

"The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids when they didn't do anything wrong themselves, I think, would be something that would merit me speaking out," he said on Jan. 18.

Which leads us to this afternoon. Just four hours after the Trump administration rescinded the DACA policy Obama crafted in 2012, the former president published a piece on Facebook, expressing his concerns over today's developments. An excerpt:

To target these young people is wrong -- because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating -- because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid's science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn't know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid's softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it's up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future.... Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people -- and who we want to be.

For those keeping score, this isn't the first time the former president has broken with his self-imposed silence.

As we discussed a while back, Obama issued a statement less than two weeks after leaving office in response to Trump's Muslim ban. In June, he spoke up again when the American health care system was in peril.

All things considered, I'd say Obama's been quite restrained, giving his successor a wide berth despite the ridiculousness of the circumstances.