WASHINGTON ― Outgoing presidents usually refrain from commenting on national policy after leaving office out of respect to their successor and to give the next president a chance to carry out his own vision for the country. George W. Bush, for example, refrained from speaking out about Barack Obama’s administration throughout his eight years in office.
That may change with Obama, who will remain in the nation’s capital after leaving office on Friday. Asked Wednesday whether he would return to the public arena in some way during Donald Trump’s presidency, the president said he is done with public office. But he added that he wouldn’t hesitate to speak out in extraordinary situations where Americans’ rights were being trampled, for example.
“I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion, I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise,” Obama said during his final press conference at the White House. “I put in that category institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. For me, at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here, and for all practical purposes, are American kids, and send them someplace else.
“When they love this country, they are our kids’ friends and classmates and are now entering into community colleges or in some cases serving in our military,” he added, referring to Dreamers. “The notion that we would just arbitrarily or because of politics, round up those kids, when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves, I think, would be something that would merit me speaking out.”
Since Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, more than 750,000 young undocumented immigrants have been allowed to work legally and get driver’s licenses under the policy. Trump promised to end DACA within his first days in office, although he has been vague about what he would do about Dreamers. In December, Trump said he was “going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud” for Dreamers ― without any details on what that would be.
Elise Foley contributed reporting.