Donald Trump has suggested it is up to Congress to ultimately decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought into the US illegally as children.

The president tweeted, “Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA!”, referring to Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the US.

The Trump administration is expected to announce the termination of the programme, but only after giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution to protect the immigrants, sometimes known as “dreamers”.

Loading article content

Attorney general Jeff Sessions, a harsh opponent of the programme, has scheduled a press briefing on the topic later on Tuesday.

Mr Trump’s expected plan to take a hard line on young immigrants unless Congress intervenes threatens to expose deep divides among Republicans who have long struggled with the issue, with one conservative warning of a potential “civil war” within the party.

The plan essentially hands a political hot potato to congressional Republicans, who have a long history of failing to act on immigration because of divisions in the party.

Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted: “After teasing #Dreamers for months with talk of his ‘great heart,’ @POTUS slams door on them. Some ‘heart’..”

Officials caution that Mr Trump’s plan is not yet finalised, and the president, who has been grappling with the issue for months, has been known to change his mind at the last minute ahead of an announcement.

It also remains unclear exactly how a six-month delay would work in practice, including whether the government would continue to process applications under the programme, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the country in the form of two-year, renewable permits.

(Carolyn Kaster/AP)(Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The Obama administration created the DACA programme in 2012 as a stopgap as it pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress.

Many Republicans say they opposed the programme on the grounds that it was executive overreach.

House speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of other Republicans urged Mr Trump last week to hold off on scrapping DACA to give lawmakers time to come up with a legislative fix.

But Congress has repeatedly tried — and failed — to come together on immigration overhaul legislation, and it remains uncertain whether the House would succeed in passing anything on the divisive topic.