When former President Barack Obama signed an executive order in June 2012 creating the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, he did so because Republicans in Congress had shown little interest in joining with Democrats on Capitol Hill to pass a massive comprehensive immigration-reform bill.
One of the main provisions of the bill would have been the protection of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The so-called Dreamers would have had the ability to earn green cards – permanent resident status – in five years.
But when most Republicans in Congress refused to act, Democrat Obama launched the program that has shielded more than 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
The Dreamers have had five years of relative security, but all that changed Tuesday when Republican President Donald Trump scrapped DACA.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that Obama’s executive order was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority” that must be revoked.
However, Trump made it known that the revocation of Obama’s executive order would not take effect immediately. He has given the GOP-controlled Congress six months to deal legislatively with DACA. If members of his party again drop the ball, Trump has said he would revisit the issue.
Not surprisingly, reaction to the perceived attack on young immigrants has been fast and furious. After all, these individuals were brought to this country as children and are now fully integrated into American society.
Indeed, many are educated, gainfully employed and pay taxes. The idea that these hundreds of thousands of immigrants are a drain on this nation’s resources is ludicrous. There also is no basis for the argument that they are taking jobs away from American citizens.
The Dreamers came to this country with their families and consider themselves Americans, despite not having legal status.
It would be unconscionable and foolhardy for the Trump administration to contemplate deportation.
Former President Obama, who has remained quiet while his successor has kept up a drumbeat of criticism of the past administration, issued a statement after the rescission of DACA.
“Immigration can be a controversial topic,” Obama said. “We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules. But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about.”
Obama said he signed the executive order after Congress failed to send him an immigration reform bill. He said he was unwilling to leave in limbo people brought illegally to the U.S. as children.
“Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about 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. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be,” Obama said, calling Trump’s move “wrong” and “self-defeating.”
It’s important to note that President Trump has left the door open to some other action if Congress does not pass legislation that preserves DACA.
The Dream Act has bipartisan support, unlike the highly contentious massive immigration reform bill that passed the then Democratic-controlled Senate with some Republican support, but was rejected by the GOP majority in the House.
Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, ., have said Dreamers deserve to be protected.
Vice President Joe Biden put it so well when he tweeted, “Brought by parents, these children had no choice in coming here. Now they’ll be sent to countries they’ve never known. Cruel. Not America.”
While DACA is the priority, President Trump’s challenge to Congress to act within six months is an opportunity for GOP leaders to resurrect the immigration reform legislation.
Two prominent Republicans, former President George W. Bush and his brother, Jeb Bush, ex-governor of Florida, supported the measure. It offers a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in this country illegally and tightens border security with a 700-mile high-tech security fence.