Yesterday the Trump Administration put a six month limit on the continued use of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that was in effect for roughly the last five years. This is the order that allowed undocumented immigrants brought here as children, with no say in the matter, to stay in the United States as long as they met certain criteria. You may know the recipients of this policy as Dreamers, which came from the Congressional DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) which is legislation proposed in Congress in various forms since 2001 with chances of passage in either the House or the Senate, but never both at the same time. After the last failure, President Obama in 2012 put the DACA into practice. The criteria for being designated as a Dreamer are as follows, although under the policy, meeting these criteria does not automatically qualify the applicant as a Dreamer. They had to:
- Come to the United States before their 16th birthday
- Live continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007
- Be under age 31 on June 15, 2012 (i.e., born on June 16, 1981 or after)
- Be physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for consideration of deferred action with US Custom and Immigration Service
- Have no lawful status on June 15, 2012
- Have completed high school or have a certified GED or have an honorable discharge from the Armed Forces or be enrolled in school
- Have no convictions of a felony or serious misdemeanors, or three or more other misdemeanors, and not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
It is estimated that there are approximately 800,000 registered Dreamers in the United States.
“Registered” could be a problem because they were promised no retribution if they came in out of the shadows and became useful members of society. How many are now waiting for the knock on the door that they thought would not be of concern to them? The talking points distributed by the Administration includes this advice to the Dreamers.
The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States — including proactively seeking travel documentation — or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.
No worries. They will just go back to a country where they probably know no one and do not even speak the language. Sure.
There is much ado about how “conflicted” Mr. Trump is about this decision because he wants to follow the rule of law and yet he has “great heart” and “loves” the Dreamers. Just ask him. His administration portrayed the decision as a moral dilemma. Hogwash. Mr. Trump has about as good of a moral compass as a tumbleweed. Over time, Mr. Trump has had as many moral and political positions on the widest variety of issues as anyone known to have achieved elected office. You name a position, and he has had it at one time or another, including on Dreamers.
Mr. Trump is not conflicted over moral decisions. He is only conflicted in terms of what gives him the best political outcome. In this case, he got himself into a dilemma because there is no good political outcome. All he cares about is “winning” and not what the impact of the policy might be. Follow his argument in the ensuing paragraphs and see how circuitous and illogical it actually turns out to be.
His primary purpose for announcing this change in policy now, under less than optimal circumstances given the need before the end of September to raise the debt limit, pass a budget, provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, deal with the crisis in North Korea, and prepare for what looks to be another major crisis from Hurricane Irma, to name just a few things hanging over our heads, is to satisfy the hard-liners in his base — which continues to shrink. Arguably, on this issue he is not even following his base. Most polls show that about 75% of Americans approve of DACA and only about 15% say the Dreamers should be deported. Of Trump supporters only 25% say the Dreamers should be deported and about 70% think that DACA should stay in place.
Mr. Trump’s motivation is only and purely political. Yesterday, he showed that he does not have the fortitude to stand by the tough calls. We all know his penchant for the big show and, as he calls them “ratings.” So here is a big “tell” — he was nowhere to be found when the announcement that DACA would end was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Attorney General took no questions from the press after the announcement. Mr. Trump demonstrated no sense of responsibility for his decision, even as his press secretary constantly turned all questions to Congress and away from Mr. Trump.
There was no moral dilemma for Mr. Trump. I would say there never is one that impacts his thinking, but I digress. Instead of addressing the issue, he passed it to Congress in a very Pontius Pilate kind of way. He washes his hands of it. If in six months there is no new DREAM Act or something like it, then it is not his fault. Oh by the way, Mr. Trump gave absolutely no guidance to Congress as to what kind of bill it should be, what he wants to see (or not see) in it, and what problems it should solve. No guidance whatsoever. Like many issues, he provided no leadership on the issue. I suppose as with health care legislation, “I am sitting with pen in hand” to sign a bill. Any bill. We are winning. If nothing passes it is not his fault. If it does pass he will be the first to proclaim that he solved the problem. A huge problem.
Mr. Trump cannot take the lead on solving the Dreamer problem because if he does, it will undermine the entire basis of his campaign and post-election rhetoric. His demagoguery is based on the argument that immigrants are stealing jobs. But he suspected, and now knows, that there will be a big backlash to heartlessly tossing out young people that are Americans in every way except on paper. Mr. Trump needs to prop up his campaign lies (fact checkers now have him at 1,114 false or misleading statements in the first 227 days of his administration) that deportation helps US jobs.
He rose to prominence as an anti-immigrant fear monger, starting with the despicable “Birther Movement” claiming President Obama was not an American. Since then has built his coalition around being anti-immigrant. Simply compare the record of the average Dreamer and what they have done for America (and perhaps more importantly what they will do in the future) to all of the accomplishments of Mr. Trump’s hero, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Even with that, he cannot be consistent. Mr. Trump makes an economic argument as to why we should deport all undocumented immigrants because they are taking all the jobs. But then he turns around and pushes Congress to pass a law to keep them. Great logic, great morality, great demagoguery.
Houston, we have a problem. Who is going to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey? Who does Mr. Trump think is going to do the construction and hard-core clean up following the destruction experienced across many, many square miles of Houston, east Texas and Louisiana? Sure, let’s get rid of all those hard-working $10 an hour folks and bring in, who exactly? Get real.
Most people may understand what Mr. Trump’s decision means on personal terms to those impacted. Most, however, probably do not understand the economic impact. Every major CEO and most small business owners opposed the termination of DACA based on economic factors. Studies indicate that about 91% of all Dreamers are employed. As their work permits expire, about 30,000 will lose their jobs each month. That translates to lots of lost productivity and expertise for the their employers and adds up to reducing the national gross domestic product by $433 billion (yes, with a B) over ten years. It also means the loss of nearly $25 billion (another B!) dollars in taxes to programs such as Medicare and Social Security. (Yes, Dreamers pay taxes.)
None of that takes into account the Dreamers currently serving on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. What happens to them? What happens to the veterans that honorably served this nation? Just throw them out?
There clearly are some Constitutional issues. These are worthy of consideration and debate. Clearly Congress should shoulder the burden and do their job, as they should do in so many areas where they seem unable to govern. Usually, however, Constitutional issues get settled in the courts, not by a unilateral decision on the part of Mr. Trump or Attorney General Sessions. As I write, many state Attorneys General have spoken up and plan to take Mr. Trump’s decision to court. We shall see how that unfolds.
But let me ask this rhetorical question. Early in his administration, Mr. Trump’s Muslim Ban was touted as being totally within the Constitutional bounds of his office. They argued that he had “extraordinary powers” in cases of immigration and was totally within the power of the office to keep people out. Does it not seem logical that if Mr. Trump can keep people out, he can also use that power to keep them in?
In all, I find this one more example of a tumbling tumbleweed administration. Mr. Trump is just blowing in the wind, merely reacting day-to-day with no particular vision (and according to reported sources inside the White House, no understanding of the issues or their implications) other than keeping the dedicated base cheering at his campaign rallies. And oh, spending time watching “the shows” on television and tweeting.