Dream On!, Says Trump
Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 1, 2017
Under pressure from more than 10 conservative state attorneys general, President Trump is likely to dump the Obama policy protecting nearly 600,000–800,000 “dreamers,” immigrants who entered the country as children. Fox News reported from sources that the decision is likely today, but in any event, in time for a Sept. 5 deadline.
A permanent policy would await congressional action, but the President could overturn an five-year-old Obama executive order, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or the Dreamers Act, that protects these individuals from deportation. Needless to say, immigrant advocates and critics of the President vow protest and legal action to stop any attempt to overturn the policy, so, once again, Team Trump immigration policies undoubtably will end up in court.
If the federal government does not withdraw from DACA by Sept. 5, the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, said they would file a legal challenge to the program in a Texas federal court. A larger number of states already have challenged a parallel policy covering parents in these illegal immigration cases, and the Department Homeland Security rescinded that policy earlier this year.
Civil rights groups see ending the program as increasing racial divisions in the country, especially after Charlottesville. Any number of personal stories are floating around in news reports, blogs and social media about individuals who are grateful to be in the United States, aware of their status, but pursuing their education to become full-fledged, tax-paying, employed and contributing individuals, regardless of citizenship.
Donald Trump attacked DACA as a presidential candidate, but since has pledged to keep the program alive. He called dreamers “absolutely incredible kids” who deserve compassion. But senior officials, including Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, now are prompting a re-think. Sessions reportedly has told the President that DACA is unconstitutional. John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, said in July as homeland security secretary that the program might not survive legal scrutiny.
So, we have another tale of two Trumps, one who has declared himself and the other who may turn 180 degrees to please his voter base. In repeated remarks, the President has said he wants immigrants who speak English, have jobs or skills, and are legal. Dreamers would seem to provide all of that, since these individuals were under-aged, but reviewed individually, and are working hard to make it in their adopted country. Legal issues notwithstanding, this is about politics and empathy. There is nothing for the president to gain other than a political nod to his conservative base, and a lot to lose in the form of human capital.
Republican attorneys general have had success in blocking other immigration issues, though the legal questions remain open, of course. A decision by Team Trump not to defend it could preemptively kill any legal attempt to keep it.
In an article talking with dreamers, the New York Times reported that DACA has changed the lives of many beneficiaries, enabling them to qualify for financial aid for college, secure better jobs and open bank accounts. Those working would face firing, for example, over losing immigration status. Deportation proceedings would follow.
The Department of Homeland Security has DACA and tax documents showing the addresses of dreamers, which may also be the addresses of their undocumented parents.
Hundreds turned out for a Washington rally, one of several held around the country. Starting around 2010, undocumented young people used a variety of campaign techniques to bring attention to the issue. While not offering legal residency or citizenship, DACA did give teens and children “deferred action,” a shield against deportation while they pursued their education and employment. To qualify, applicants must have entered the United States before age 16, lived in the country continuously since June 2007 and have committed no serious crimes. The protection lasts for two years and can be renewed. The administration has approved tens of thousands of new and renewal requests for DACA deferrals since Mr. Trump took office.
The Times said that polls show that DACA enjoys overwhelming support among the public. But eliminating it would please many Trump supporters who favor a hard-line stance on illegal immigration and who regard the program as nothing short of an amnesty that the president has no power to grant.
Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, argues that there is no constitutional basis for the policy.
If the states are successful, it would be up to Congress to give the Dreamers a way to stay in the country legally. Four bills with bipartisan sponsors have been filed that would provide relief to the Dreamers. Or it finally might allow for a winder approach to immigration policy.
A petition from 100 law professors recently argued that President Trump has the power to decide whom to deport, given that the government does not have the resources to target all undocumented immigrants.
Since the President is deciding when and how to follow the law, this would be a good case for his professed views about the need to heal divisions.