DACA will be stealing the headlines over the next few days. It is an emotional issue in which the worst of American politics, law, media, and emotion come together in one big mess. An illegal executive order and a Congress without the courage to address the issue could be recipe for disaster for the Republicans.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an executive order issued under President Barack Obama in 2012 through the Department of Homeland Security. It allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a two-year period of deferred action relating deportation proceedings and be granted eligibility for a work permit. It must be renewed every two years at a cost of $495.00. There is a strict list of criteria to qualify for the program.
Many of the so-called Dreamers have known no other country other than the United States. Many of these young people have grown to contribute greatly to our county and our military. There are a few bad apples, but not many. It is estimated that 1.5 million illegals could qualify for DACA. There are approximately 800,000 who are currently participating.
In 2014 President Obama attempted to expand DACA. Several states sued to stop the expansion. An injunction was issued by the District Court for the Southern District of Texas and upheld by the United States Supreme Court in a 4 -4 decision.
The current DACA order expires September 5th. President Donald Trump is expected to announce his intent to discontinue the program with implementation of the dismantling deferred for six months to allow Congress to address the issue legislatively.
There is a legal flaw built into DACA. It is unconstitutional. Immigration Law is codified and statutory. DACA is a form of Executive Amnesty bypassing the law. In March of 2011 Obama said:
“America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that. That’s part of my job. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. … With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed …. [W]e’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President. I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books …. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”
But that is exactly what he did one year later with the DACA program. Therein lies the dilemma. Currently there are numerous lawsuits moving through the courts by states attempting to overturn DACA. Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, it is more likely than not going to be overturned when the cases are finally heard.
DACA is an extremely complicated issue. When dealing with a political dilemma, there are three things that must be taken into consideration: the law; the politics; and the humanity. The law relating to DACA is clear. It cannot survive a Supreme Court test. The humanity is also clear. Most of these folks are exactly who want to stay in our country. The criteria are strict and enforced. With some exceptions, these are the good guys.
But the politics is fraught with traps. Emotions run high in the DACA debate with common sense and intellect thrown to the wind. If Trump plays his cards right, he can solidify a Republican majority for the next 50 years. If he blows it…well…he blows it big.
My analysis is as follows. Conservatives hate DACA, and understandably so. We are a nation of laws and our national debt is through the roof. This is an illegal order. To quote Barack Obama, the President is not a king. The immigration situation in America is a mess because those in charge have refused to enforce the laws on the books for personal political gain.
But DACA is different. If ever there is a place to compromise, this is it. Moderate Republicans have indicated they would join with Democrats to craft a DACA bill. Both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have indicated they would push it through. President Trump, although not stating so overtly, has more than hinted he would sign it.
Republicans have an image problem with the Hispanic community. DACA could be leveraged to break the Hispanic vote wide open. It could also serve as a cornerstone for comprehensive immigration reform including the wall and increased enforcement of the laws on the books.
Conservatives rightly state that they have been burned on these types of grand bargains in the past. The stuff they don’t want is implemented right away. The stuff they do want is thrown out the back door with the garbage. It has happened twice in the last thirty years. The result is amnesty with no enforcement allowing the cycle to begin all over again and the mess we are in today.
I agree with their position. But this is the wrong battle in the right war. Conservatives will lose if they try to oppose it. It could cost them control of Congress next election. Nobody wants to see a twenty-year-old EMT serving in flood ravaged Houston pulled out of his ambulance and deported. Not cool. I doubt that conservative voters would stay home over this…but the independents who voted for Trump this past election are not that ideological. They could flip back to Democrat. The optics on this would be dreadful. That would not be the case in a full blown amnesty which conservative should oppose to the max.
Get behind it, and you open a dialogue with one of the key constituent groups in the Democratic Party. In the process the flaws with the current DACA system can be fixed, including issues surrounding criminal activity, chain migration, the accessibility of unrelated benefits, and more stringent enforcement of current immigration laws….maybe even build the wall!
As in all things in life, you pick your battles. DACA isn’t the one. Wait for the next skirmish.
By: Mark G. Mangie