President Donald Trump decided to gradually phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which former President Barack Obama enacted through an amnesty executive order. President Trump acted in order to remedy Obama’s trampling of the Constitution’s separation of powers, while at the same time not suddenly upending the lives of those who would be affected. The president explained his rationale in a statement issued by the White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered his own statement expanding on the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA.
Obama’s intention was to shield nearly 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children, known as “Dreamers,” from deportation. These individuals were the intended beneficiaries of the failed DREAM Act, which was never passed by Congress, even when Democrats held legislative majorities in both houses. In issuing the DACA executive order, Obama acted without any legislative authority – he bypassed Congress altogether to give work permits, social security numbers, and federal benefits to these Dreamers, who are currently between the ages of 15 and 36. In so doing, Obama acted through executive fiat to create a new immigration law all by himself.
Now, following the announcement of President Trump’s decision to phase out Obama’s executive DACA order, while providing Congress with the opportunity to address the Dreamers’ situation the right way under the Constitution, Obama has come out swinging against President Trump’s action. He complained that President Trump’s decision is “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense.” Obama added that President Trump was being “cruel” by targeting “these young people.” He asked rhetorically “whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated.”
As usual, Obama tries to justify his own grievous mistakes by demonizing those who disagree with him and spinning out a straw man argument. Obama has only himself to blame for putting the Dreamers he sought to protect in legal limbo, knowing that his executive order would be challenged in court as a breach of the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of powers. Indeed, officials from ten states were prepared to sue the Trump administration over the program if President Trump had decided to keep it intact. Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) executive order has already been struck down on constitutional grounds.
Obama completely ignored the grave constitutional problem his amnesty executive orders had created. President Trump was not willing to perpetuate Obama’s usurpation of legislative power. It would have been far crueler to permit the Dreamers to dream a future in America built on such a flimsy foundation, only to find it swept away by judicial action without any protection from immediate deportation. Even Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) admitted that DACA is on shaky legal ground and that Congress needed to pass a law to truly protect the Dreamers. President Trump agrees with the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, while many of her Democrat colleagues in Congress and others on the Left continue to demagogue the issue.
“I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents,” President Trump stated in explaining his decision. “But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.” He urged Congress to perform its legislative duty and pass comprehensive immigration reform that “will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve.”
While Obama urged that we treat the Dreamers “the way we’d want our own kids to be treated,” President Trump made what should be an obvious point in his statement. Compassion for the plight of illegal immigrants, including the Dreamers, should not cause us to forget that “young Americans have dreams too.”
“Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers,” President Trump said. The president also noted that some of the “kids” who entered this country illegally, including unaccompanied minors from Central America, have gone on to become members of violent gangs preying on Americans, such as MS-13.
President Trump emphasized in his statement that he was “not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.” There will be no mass round-ups or deportations. There will be no sudden disruption in peoples’ lives.
The president outlined the gradual transition he had in mind:
“While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months.”
If Congress acts in a responsible fashion, those “hopeful young strivers” Obama is so worried about will not automatically be kicked out of America. There are Republicans in Congress, as well as Democrats, who want to find a legislative solution that allows at least some Dreamers to remain in the country legally. For example, under a bill proposed by North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis, Dreamers would have the opportunity to prove they really are strivers who can contribute positively to America. High school graduates without a serious criminal record would be granted conditional immigration status for a five-year period. During those five years, they could achieve permanent residency, and possibly eventual citizenship, if they earn a higher-education degree, serve in the military or stay employed.
To prevent the granting of permanent legal status to Dreamers from incentivizing more illegal immigrants to enter the country in the future with children in tow, significant money for border security, including a wall, will need to be part of a legislative immigration reform package. Otherwise, in ten, twenty or thirty years, we will be dealing with whole new generations of “Dreamers” and other illegal immigrants who believe they are entitled to U.S. citizenship.
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