DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an order that permits, with some restrictions, minors from other countries that had arrived in the United States to defer legal action against them for two years (or more with permit renewal). There are about 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States, with about 223,000 residing in California and 121,000 residing in Texas.
Tuesday heralded the dawn of a new wave of possible actions that the Trump administration will pursue. Talks of eliminating DACA are revived, and Politico reports from senior White House officials state that Trump has decided to pull back the DACA executive order after a 6-month waiting period.
For those granted temporary legal status by DACA, this news is terrifying, and that reality is not political—it’s natural. However, it’s important to think about the decision of how to address illegal residents in the political context in which the problem began and continued.
The United States of America is a nation that honors laws. This sentiment has been echoed by Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and infinitely more political elites. In his 1995 State of the Union Address, Bill Clinton noted that illegal immigration had become an inherited problem that spawned from years of failed immigration policy. The question then becomes, why did immigration policy fail?
This is not a partisan issue—Clinton, Reagan, and other presidents from both parties have tried to solve the issue of illegal immigration with mass amnesties. The mentality behind this tactic has been along the lines of “we realize you’re here illegally, and we’re going to let it slide as long as this illegal immigration phenomenon doesn’t happen again.” Yet, it continues to happen again. The problem isn’t that the law is ambiguous or vague—the problem is that the enforcement and execution of border laws changes based on emotion.
Reagan and Obama both cited emotional reasons for granting amnesties to their respective recipients; however, the United States is a nation of laws, and those laws must be respected.
That is not to say that laws should not be formed without considering emotion. An important aspect of the American legal system is legal interpretation and the intent of laws—that’s why the intentions of the Founding Fathers, who created the Constitution, are often subject to debate. In effect, what Trump would do if he officially unveiled the removal of DACA after a 6-month waiting period is solidify immigration law.
Both Democrats and Republicans are wary about terminating DACA because turning fear into reality for those 800,000 DACA recipients is not what the American process is. As a result, it’s political suicide—for President Trump and for Congressmen on both sides of the isle—to allow DACA to fail without anything to replace it. This would undoubtedly force the congressional hand to reform immigration policy that has historically been a can kicked down the road by the legislative branch for over 40 years.
It is not very convincing to see congressional leaders denounce the idea of Trump’s removing DACA after an explicit 6-month period to create a replacement policy, yet congressmen still claim that they want reformed immigration and “what’s good” for illegal immigrants. President Trump, through unprecedented means, is giving Congress the cue to fix the half-century-old illegal immigration problem in the United States.
For Congressmen, they should rejoice that there is a bipartisan goal and a possibility of giving DACA recipients a better life than only guaranteeing two years of certainty at a time. For DACA recipients, they need to understand that it is simply not politically feasible to host a mass migration of 800,000 illegal immigrants out of the country. The battle now is forcing Congress to accept its constitutional responsibility to handle naturalization and immigration laws and in the next six months create policy that will quell the immigration frustration in the United States as well as improve the lives of those that wish to be a part of these great United States.