The decision of the Trump Administration to rescind the Obama era executive order on DACA without a Congressional agreement to fix the problem is baffling.
The President and the Attorney General have created yet another legislative crisis for a Congress already overwhelmed by seemingly irreconcilable differences ranging from how to increase and manage the national debt ceiling to passing a 2018 federal budget (for the first time in 8 years) as a pre-requisite for any meaningful discussion of tax reform.
After years of promises, Congress does not yet have any reasonable plan to repeal, replace or repair the Affordable Care Act.
They’ve not passed a Defense Authorization Appropriation in the face of worrisome aggressive actions and threats against the United States by nuclear capable North Korea. Not to mention the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and so forth.
In the face of the well documented philosophic splits inside and between both political parties represented in the 115th Congress – it is unlikely that meaningful tax reform can muster any combination of the required 60 votes in the Senate.
Adding a legislative “DACA-fix” to Congress’ already impossible 2017 to-do-list is akin to throwing a match into a house with a gas-leak so you can enjoy the fiery explosion.
DACA is a Result of 2012 Presidential Politics
President Obama insisted for four years that he “lacked the Constitutional authority” to intervene on behalf of undocumented aliens living in the United States – arguing only Congress could change the law.
But in the run up to the 2012 Presidential Election, President Obama changed his mind about the extent of his executive power to protect undocumented (“illegal”) aliens living in the United States.
Facing a tougher than expected 2012 re-election challenge from Mitt Romney, he used Executive Orders to protect two classes of illegal immigrants from deportation proceedings and grant them temporary work permits – a total of more than three point six (3.6) million people.
- Deferred Action (for) Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
- Deferred Action (for) Parents (of) Americans (DAPA)
The Supreme Court agreed with President Obama’s first position — ruling DAPA and some parts of DACA to be unconstitutional in 2015 but left limited DACA protections in place.
While some might ascribe cynical political motives to President Obama we can all agree that, as a parent himself, he believed it is unfair to punish children for the sins of their parents.
The 600,000 to 800,000 young people who remained eligible for deferred action are between 18 and 30 years of age, originally brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were children. They’ve grown up in the United States. Many have siblings born in the United States who are citizens.
These young people know no other country than the United States. There are, except for their immigration status, indistinguishable from their classmates, neighbors, work place colleagues or citizen spouses.
Some don’t even speak the language of the country of their birth.
The young people who have “come out of the shadows” by applying for a two year renewal work permit under DACA are contributing members of society.
- At least 100 are enrolled in medical schools.
- 359 enlisted in the US Army in 2016, alone, statistically similar to the general US population who serve (1 percent).
- All have met the minimum qualification for DACA status by earning at least a high school degree (or GED certificate) and, if not currently enrolled in school, have continuous full-time employment.
They are caught in the limbo of Congress’ bi-partisan failure to frontally address a United States Immigration System that is completely broken and politicized – an impasse that has existed continuously since 2004 through majority Republican and majority Democratic congresses.
Immigration Reform Begins One Small Step (Bill) at a Time
As soon as Attorney General Session announced a planned end to the deferral program, members of both parties in Congress rushed to find a camera to promise a quick bi-partisan legislative solution to the DACA problem.
The White House press secretary even urged Congress to immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform.
But, if it were so easy – wouldn’t Congress have done it in 2004 or 2007 or 2010, 2012? The devil is in the details.
The history of comprehensive immigration reform – last enacted in 1986 – does not inspire confidence in the American people.
The 1986 “carrot” — amnesty to some two million undocumented aliens — was implemented right away but the “sticks” of stronger border control and stepped-up interior enforcement – E Verify (Employment Eligibility Verification) – have never been fully implemented.
The result is an estimated 11 million more undocumented immigrants today who point to 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli as evidence they have a “right” to legal status.
As a nation we just don’t do comprehensive well. Instead of one big omnibus bill that will never be fully understood or implemented, Congress should start with several, more modest, single purpose bills that can be fitted together in an interlocking immigration reform package — implemented, measured, tracked and enforced one step at a time over several years – starting with DACA.
Bi-Partisan Incremental Deal
The American people have shown in recent Politico polling support for – and our economy needs — more skilled and younger immigrants who can assimilate into American culture – the definition of a Dreamer (DACA).
A bi-partisan poll of the American political center taken by NBC News and Esquire Magazine in 2013 demonstrated a willingness to grant legal status (even eventual citizenship) to undocumented immigrants living in the United States for many years if the government can demonstrate the border is secured against further unauthorized immigration.
The Trump Administration created a “Dreamer crisis” and then gave Congress six months to “fix” the problem. That’s not constructive.
The Trump Administration must work with Congress to fashion a legislative process which builds the trust of the American people and sets the stage for future legislation to modernize our antiquated immigration system.
A reform bill that conveys legal status to qualifying Dreamers who arrived in the USA before 2007 linked to a companion bill focused on improved northern, southern; land, sea and air border security seems a good place to start.
Graphic is courtesy of the Delgado Law Group — with thanks
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