President Donald Trump is defending his decision to phase out a program protecting young immigrants from deportation, saying he is giving Congress a "window of opportunity" to act.

Trump is stressing in a statement that he is "not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act."

The program created by former President Barack Obama has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to work legally in the country.

Trump says he is not in favor of punishing children for the actions of their parents.

But he says: "Young Americans have dreams too."

Meanwhile, Governor Sandoval said in a statement that he supports DACA and is urging Congress to act. (Read his full statement below)

Trump's decision comes after a long and notably public deliberation. Despite campaigning as an immigration hard-liner, he has said he is sympathetic to the plight of the immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children and in some cases have no memories of the countries they were born in.

But his approach is fraught with uncertainty and political perils that amount, according to one vocal opponent, to "Republican suicide."

Still other Republicans say they are ready to take the issue on.

"If President Trump makes this decision, we will work to find a legislative solution to their dilemma," said Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham.

The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 as a stopgap as it pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress. Many Republicans say they opposed the program on the grounds that it was executive overreach.

Former President Barack Obama calls President Trump's decision "cruel" and "self-defeating."

Obama did not mention Trump by name in his statement but says a "shadow has been cast" over some of the nation's best and brightest young people. He says targeting them is wrong "because they have done nothing wrong."

Obama says it's up to members of Congress to act and he joins his voice with the majority of Americans who hopes Congress will step up.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and a handful of other Republicans urged 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.

One bill addressing the issue that has received the most attention, introduced by Sens. Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would grant permanent legal status to more than 1 million young people who arrived in the United States before they turned 18, passed security checks and met other criteria, including enrolling in college, joining the military or finding jobs.

Graham said in a statement Monday that he would support the president if he decided ultimately to go through with the plan as outlined.

"I have always believed DACA was a presidential overreach. However, I equally understand the plight of the Dream Act kids who - for all practical purposes - know no country other than America," Graham said in a statement.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., agreed, saying that it should be up to Congress, not the White House, to set immigration policy.

"We must confront the nation's out-of-date immigration policy and finally resolve the issues of strong border enforcement and merit immigration," he said. "It is right for there to be consequences for those who intentionally entered this country illegally. However, we as Americans do not hold children legally accountable for the actions of their parents."

But Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who believes that DACA is unconstitutional, warned that pushing the decision to Congress would be a big mistake.

"That would cause a great big civil war among the Republicans," he said last week. "We've got enough of never-Trumpers in Congress that are undermining the president's agenda."

He added on Twitter late Sunday night: "Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide." (AP) 

Several people gathered outside the federal courthouse in Reno Tuesday morning after the announcement. DACA recipient and local chef, Gustavo Velasco was there asking Congress to keep the program he says helped grow his catering business.

"Through the executive order, we got something, which is great we don't have to look over our shoulder," said Velasco. 

He came from Mexico when he was 14 years old and through DACA is reprieved of deportation and given the ability to work legally. Because the program does not grant legal status, he wants to see Congress make a path to citizenship for him and other "dreamers" saying President Obama's executive order in 2012 wasn't ideal.

"I can't see my grandma, which I haven't seen in 17 years."

Many at the rally were passionate about keeping "dreamers" protected from immigration enforcement, but others just had a bone to pick with President Trump.

"President Obama tried to do something good and Trump, if it says Obama, Trump wants it removed," said DACA supporter, Jayce Ofria.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval released this statement: 

“Nevada is a state that is proud of its dynamic and diverse immigrant communities. I support DACA and have been proud to sign into law legislation that allowed DACA recipients to become licensed teachers in our schools and provide a path for them to earn a driver’s license which has increased safety for all Nevadans. I have also had the privilege to meet many individuals and families whose lives have been transformed by this program. These are individuals who were brought here as children and this is the country they know and love because it’s their home. Many are now young adults who wear our nation’s uniform in the Armed Forces or are teaching in our classrooms. They’re our neighbors, friends, and the familiar faces at the grocery store. They are Nevadans. While the State has taken many actions to embrace and ensure equal opportunities for DACA recipients, a solution requires Congressional action. I am hopeful that Nevada’s federal delegation will recognize the urgency of the moment and fight for the thousands of Nevadans who are living happier lives and contributing to our state’s recovery. Congress must act in order to preserve this program and reform and stabilize our nation’s immigration system.” 

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) released this statement: 

"The DACA program was born out of an executive order from President Obama and it's another example of why it's important that Congress debates and tackles any policy that significantly alters our nation's laws. While I remain concerned about the way in which DACA came to life, I've made clear that I support the program because hardworking individuals who came to this country through no fault of their own as children should not be immediately shown the door," Heller said. "This is why I am a cosponsor of the BRIDGE Act, which provides legal status for these individuals while Congress works toward a permanent solution through the proper Constitutional process. Just as I have in the past, I'll continue to work with my colleagues to reform our broken immigration system and that must start with securing our borders; however, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our country has a long history of welcoming immigrants and our communities in Nevada are stronger because of it."

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) released the following statement:
“Moments ago, President Trump hid behind his Attorney General to attack the lives of hundreds of thousands of productive, taxpaying, and patriotic aspiring Americans. The President’s actions clearly show he stands with racists like Stephen Bannon and Joe Arpaio. Today’s decision to end DACA protections for DREAMers is not guided by sound policy, but by xenophobia and myths. DREAMers who benefit from DACA know no other country other than the U.S. Denying them DACA protection unjustly rips away their future, exposes them to job loss, and threatens them with deportation from the only country they have ever known. By revoking this program, the Administration robs our communities of their contributions and betrays America’s immigrant heritage.
“DACA’s repeal will cost the U.S. economy $433 billion in the next decade, reduce Social Security tax revenue by $19.9 billion and Medicare tax revenue by $4.6 billion. The human costs are unquestionably more profound. President Trump’s latest actions will not intimidate us. This fight is not over. I call on Republicans in the Senate to take up and immediately pass the DREAM Act.”

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) released this statement: 

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve called on congressional leadership to act on immigration reform. I would always rather be criticized for attempting to move this issue toward a solution, than criticized for repeated inaction. Now, Congress has six months to do the job it’s supposed to do according to the Constitution. If we’re unable to do that job, then 800,000 immigrants will be affected. That number includes individuals currently serving in our Military, working professionals, students, and other contributing members of our society. 

“The last time Congress passed any sort of substantial immigration reform was during the Reagan Administration. As far as I’m concerned, if we’re unable to kick it into high gear and follow through on this issue after 31 years – the blame is rightfully Congress’s.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada released the following statement on President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:

President Trump’s decision to end DACA is the only the latest act of discrimination to come from this White House. While Joe Arpaio—a racist convicted of disobeying court orders to enforce policies that targeted people of color and promoted racial profiling and discrimination—received a presidential pardon, hard-working, young immigrants are being thrown into legal limbo.

In Nevada, DACA has allowed nearly 13,100 young people to come out of the shadows and contribute to the growth and success of the Silver State. Ending DACA will cost Nevada more than $603.9 million in annual GDP losses. But there will also be a political cost.

Nationally, the DACA program has served as a critical lifeline for nearly 800,000 young immigrants, or “Dreamers,” who came to this country as children and know the United States as their only home.

“President Trump has thrown thousands of Nevada families into chaos with his decision on DACA. DACA recipients have rights under our Constitution, and we will do everything in our power to ensure these members of our communities receive the due process and equality they are guaranteed under the law. These children were brought here by parents searching for a better life, and the Trump Administration treats them contemptibly, by severing the ties that bind them to our communities and country. The discrimination and bigotry that drive the animus to treat these people as anything less than worthy of our full community embrace is appalling. For a nation founded by immigrants, Trump’s discriminatory policies are despicable and damaging, and Nevadans must stand up to such bigotry,” ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said.

The ACLU of Nevada will take all action necessary to ensure the rights of Dreamers are protected. But this administration can’t keep playing politics with people's lives. That’s why Nevada’s representatives in the capitol must act to provide permanent relief for Dreamers through legislation.

PLAN Action released the following statement in response:

"Trump's white nationalist agenda is putting immigrant youth at risk. We are calling on Congress to act immediately to protect immigrant youth through the Dream Act of 2017 which already has bipartisan support. We demand Congress not use DREAMers as bargaining chips to further criminalize and persecute the broader immigrant community or build a border wall. Immigrants are welcomed and here to stay."

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) released the following statement:

“Days after pardoning civil rights abuser Joe Arpaio, President Trump is tearing apart families and turning his back on a promise to protect DACA. Since 2012, DACA has helped more than 13,000 DREAMers in the state go to school, build careers, and strengthen our community. Now they will be forced into the shadows. This is a disastrous mistake that will cost Nevada’s GDP hundreds of millions per year and the federal government billions to deport DREAMers. Republicans have spent the better part of a decade avoiding votes on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform and bills I have co-sponsored to protect immigrant families. This inaction has paved the way for Trump’s xenophobia and damaging actions. I am working with community leaders to help provide access to resources for immigrants and urging my colleagues in Congress to reverse Trump’s latest attack on working families. We will not let Trump destroy the American Dream for 800,000 family members, friends, and neighbors in our nation.”

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released this statement: 

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is a deeply shameful act of political cowardice and a despicable assault of innocent young people in communities across America. Deporting DREAMers means destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of patriotic young people, costing the economy billions and betraying the fundamental values of the American Dream.

“The President’s cruel and heartless decision to start deporting DREAMers in six months demands an immediate response from the Republican Congress. Speaker Ryan and the Republican House leadership must bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote without delay.” 

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released this statement: 

“However well-intentioned, President Obama’s DACA program was a clear abuse of executive authority, an attempt to create law out of thin air. Just as the courts have already struck down similar Obama policy, this was never a viable long-term solution to this challenge. Congress writes laws, not the president, and ending this program fulfills a promise President Trump made to restore the proper role of the executive and legislative branches. But now there is more to do, and the president has called on Congress to act. The president’s announcement does not revoke permits immediately, and it is important that those affected have clarity on how this interim period will be carried out. At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it’s the only country they know. Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong will can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.”