Tennessee AG rescinds DACA threat, cites 'human element'

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Story highlights

  • Tennessee had been one of 10 states threatening the Trump administration
  • The letter encouraged bipartisan legislation in Congress

Washington (CNN)One of the attorneys general that was threatening to challenge the Trump administration on DACA has backed off his threat, citing a "human element" in his calculation and urging Congress to act instead.

The Tennessee attorney general had been part of a group of 10 states that were threatening the Trump administration to add the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to ongoing litigation in an unfriendly court if President Donald Trump doesn't sunset the program by September 5. That ultimatum was led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and was issued earlier this summer.
But now, Herbert Slatery says he no longer will pursue that course of action.
    Slatery wrote a letter Friday to his state's senators, Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, informing them he would no longer be part of Paxton's group.
    While the Tennessee attorney general said he still doubts the constitutionality of the Obama administration program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation through executive authority, he said he would not pursue a court challenge.
    "There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored," Slatery wrote. "Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benefit and service to our country. They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country. ... At this time, our office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach."
    Slatery specifically referenced legislation proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, that would write protections like those of DACA into law permanently.
    "I encourage your serious consideration of this proposed legislation," Slatery wrote to Corker and Alexander. "It is my sincere hope that the important issues raised by the states will be resolved by the people's representatives in the halls of Congress, not in a courtroom."
    Earlier Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other prominent conservative lawmakers implored Trump to not scrap DACA by the September 5 deadline in order to give Congress an opportunity to write a solution for the popular program into law. One of the chief Republican criticisms of the program has been that President Barack Obama used executive action to create it, rather than legislation.
    On Thursday, Paxton reiterated his intention to go through with the program, telling the Texas Tribune through a spokeswoman that the state is prepared to move forward despite the devastation in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. His office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN on Friday.
    Slatery's changed position brings Paxton's coalition down to nine, which is far below the 26 states that were originally part of Texas' coalition to challenge a similar Obama administration policy, which is the case Texas intends to attempt to add DACA to.
    The White House says it is still finalizing a decision on how to proceed and will make an announcement on Tuesday.