Against the protestations of most Americans, all Democrats, and even many Republicans, Present Trump (as announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions) is today ending the popular Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which allowed young people who had been brought into this country illegally as children to be spared from deportation.
The Trump Administration will no longer be accepting any new applications for deferred action, yet will for the next six months continue renewing the applications of those young people who already have deferred action — meaning those young people (some 800,000) who are already protected by DACA will continue being protected for the next six months, but no new applicants will be allowed to be protected.
The Trump Administration hopes Congress will use this six-month period to take Congressional, legislative action to protect immigrant children.
In the most generous possible view, this could be considered as a push by the Trump Administration for immigration reform — a catalyst for changing an immigration system which liberals label as broken because it inhumanely separates families from each other and isn’t responsive enough to a changing world, and conservatives consider broken because the borders are too open, undocumented immigrants are punished too lightly, and the whole system is to porous, which creates the possibility for exploitation by terrorists or other dangerous criminals.
But even if beginning a discussion about broader immigration reform were the general motivation behind this specific action of Trump Administration (and I seriously doubt it was), then this is the wrong and worst way to do it, because punishing young people who were illegally brought into America as immigrant children is unnecessarily cruel.
And it doesn’t even make any sense, because DACA fixes a problem for immigrant children by allowing them to petition for full citizenship without the fear of being deported while the process moves along. Yet Trump has suddenly ended that program and called on Congress to come up in six months with their own solution (like the one he just ended) to the problem that was already solved. Trump just pulled his finger out of the hole in the dam and told Congress to plug the hole — which had already been plugged!
And he’s doing this in the worst possible way: by giving Congress six months to solve the problem he just created, which gives all the power to Congress, not the President (which is a sign of weakness). Trump has just pointed to Congress and said, “You fix it.”
And he’s even doing this at the worst possible time, putting Congress on the clock to solve this problem now, when they also have less than a month to try a last time at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), and they have to pass a budget to fund and keep open the government, and they have to start taking up their next big issue, tax reform. Trump has unnecessarily added another big item onto a plate already full and overflowing with other items.
But even so, Congress has already taken action on this issue, we know — for back in 2013 the Senate passed S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which included a section (2103) preserving DACA and protecting those immigrant children covered by the “Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act” (DREAM Act) of earlier 2013.
S.744 also created a long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, by allowing them to apply to a new program for permanent resident status as a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI), which they had to be for 10 years before they could then apply for full citizenship (Sec. 2102). Children protected by DACA and the DREAM Act only had to be RPIs for 5 years before they could apply for full citizenship (Sec. 2103).
But even though this good bill passed in the Senate with wide bipartisan support (68-32), the Republican-controlled House of Representatives never picked up S.744 for discussion or debate, and it’s never been moved forward at all, since 2013.
If the Trump Administration is trying to start a conversation about immigration reform, then President Trump himself (not just the Attorney General) and every other member of his Administration should be telling the House of Representatives to take up this bill, S.744, and pass it.
And if Speaker Ryan is serious about his claim that the House of Representatives will take up immigration reform, then he should start by taking up S.744, and passing it — which will re-establish DACA protections for immigrant children and will help strengthen and modernize many other parts of our whole immigration system.
This is now the best possible time for the House of Representatives to finally discuss and debate S.744, and pass the damn bill. Because ending this particular DACA program — which protects children from being removed from the only country they’ve ever known and grown up in — is dumb, and heartless, and wrong.