The Dreamers’ Decision
Terry H Schwadron
Sept. 6, 2017
After all the sturm and drang, Team Trump managed to punt on the Dreamers issue, neither living up to its political campaign promises nor doing the right, moral thing.
Instead, the President — though Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions as spokesman — has managed to satisfy absolutely no one. He has put the lives of 800,000 young adults who came to this country as children in limbo, he has recanted to the hard-liner anti-immigrants among us, he has thumbed his nose at anyone with an ounce of compassion, and he has dumped the issue into the unwanted lap of Congress. If Congress does not act to approve their legal status by March 5, 2018, these people could be deported to countries where they never have lived. It is a disgusting, gutless and politically motivated decision.
Apart from all else, how is this Leadership? How does this Make America Great Again? By ducking the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) issue, the President may have come up with a politically acceptable guise to kick the can down the road by six months, but he has provided no clues for how either the Dreamers themselves or the American public should be viewing the issues involved.
What happened to the idea that Donald Trump would only target criminals who were in the country illegally? This is a direct order to send away the best and brightest, the most motivated, of an entire generation. How long do you think it will take for Canada to invite these folks to take jobs there.
In a simple Facebook statement, former President Barack Obama hit it right: This is a matter of basic decency.
As politics, it actually may be clever for Team Trump: If the complaint from 10, now nine, state attorneys general and Sessions is that the Obama executive order was not sufficiently legally solid (there were split court actions on different aspects), an affirmative vote in both houses of Congress could rectify that. But the Republican-majority House and Senate are divided on immigration thinking won’t easily be able to see this question separate from their bedrock, divisive political credos, and come up with legal support. But it will be their fault, not his. In addition, his spokespeople laid down a gauntlet — the White House wants a complete approach to immigration, not just a narrow vote on DACA, code for the border wall. In effect, the President challenged Congress with DACA to get his wall.
In the meantime, 800,000 people who are taxpayers, students, serving in our military, working as police and firefighters in Houston, and their families face a decision on whether to remain in this country. People who have spent 20 years growing up American will suddenly be not American, and subject to deportation to the native lands of their parents. The military deferred any announcement about currently serving troops who are Dreamers; in Houston, no FEMA aid will go to anyone not an American citizen.
No wonder business leaders have joined with religious clerics with Democrats with an array of “moderate” Republican voices with immediate voices in the streets to say undercutting the Dreamers is a nutty auto-response to the demands of a dwindling base of Trump supporters who may see these Dreamers as competition for jobs and a piece of the American Dream. But then, what is a Dream without Dreamers?
Sessions said that former President Obama, who started the program in 2012 through executive action, “sought to achieve specifically what the legislative branch refused to do.” Sessions called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new DACA applications, adding that those enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018 will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5, a set of actions that President Trump called “humane.”
DACA allows eligible, law-abiding young people who arrived illegally as children the chance to apply for temporary rights to live, work and study in the US. It is renewable every two years.
Steven King the ultra-conservative congressman from Iowa said the program should be cut immediately, and warned that six months of consideration of anything else was support for “amnesty” favored by Democrats. On the other side, New York state officials took the position that there is no way they will allow for legalized deportation of Dreamers. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and past presidential hopeful in the 2016 campaign, said, “If Trump decides to end DACA, it will be one of the ugliest and cruelest decisions ever made by a president in our modern history.”
A bill called the Dream Act that would have offered Dreamers a path to citizenship failed in the Senate in 2010. Several new proposals have been put forward, including the Bridge Act, a bipartisan bill with 25 co-sponsors that would allow extend DACA protections for three years to give Congress time to enact permanent legislation. But the White House and conservative Republicans could hold out for additional provisions to boost border security, such as funding for Trump’s proposed border wall or new measures to restrict legal immigration.
Generally, the decision was seen as a non-decision, and cynically viewed as distracting from other more critical issues facing the President. Along the Gulf Coast in particular, a panic has set in among immigrant families affected by the storm about the future of DACA.
The same people the President was reaching out to offer help now feel the back of the presidential hand — compassion in a velvet glove over an iron hand.
That this passes as Achievement for Team Trump is outrageous.