As you likely know by now, Donald Trump began phasing out the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program on Tuesday (DACA). DACA was implemented by Barack Obama in 2012 as a stop-gap measure to address the issue of immigrants brought to the country as children. Obama’s action was issued as an Executive Order. As such, although it provided temporary relief for some immigrants, it was not a permanent solution. The DACA program has allowed about 800,000 immigrants brought to the country as minors the ability to work and attend school. The program did not provide for full access to live legally and unimpeded in the country. Some states refused to provide drivers licenses to DACA recipients and DACA recipients lived under the threat that the program could be ended at any moment. Each DACA recipient was allowed a permit to be in the U.S. for two-year periods. After that they had to renew.
DACA did not offer any permanency to the recipients. DACA recipients could make a living in the country. They pay taxes and contribute to the community. But they can be expelled from the country at any moment. Although they were out of the shadows, they still lived in fear for themselves and for their families, who could not participate in DACA.
DACA was not a solution, it was a band aid.
That is why Donald Trump did the right thing by putting a definite ending date to the program.
The onus is now on Congress to the do the right thing and pass the necessary legislation giving DACA recipients a permanent solution to remain in the country.
Congress has for decades refused to deal with the fact that immigrants are the basis for the success of the country. A loud minority made up of people who fear those that are different and who don’t like diversity in culture have driven the debate on immigration. Most U.S. voters, once they understand the numerous contributions made by immigrants, would support open immigration policies that protect the security of the country while recognizing that immigrants are a part of the landscape of the country.
The last time any meaningful immigration reform was adopted, it was led by a Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Reagan believed in open borders. Reagan valued immigrants. But Congress, both Democrats and Republicans refused to buck the anti-immigrant lobbies. As much as Reagan wanted open borders, as in the free-flow of people through secured processes, he was limited by Congress’ inability to overcome the country’s nativists.
Nevertheless, Reagan pushed forth immigration reform that allowed millions a pathway to immigrant legitimacy and Congress reluctantly implemented the law legalizing many immigrants.
Barack Obama promised immigration reform but failed in the end. Part of the reason was that Obama used most of his political capital on the Affordable Healthcare Act with Congress and thus when it came to immigration reform he had little left. His will my have been in the right place but he was unable to deliver. Obama created DACA as a stpo-gap measure, but as an Executive Order it had little long-term viability. DACA recipients only got the permission to work and pay taxes without the fear of deportation. Anything else was limited by the fact that their status was tenuous at best.
The DACA recipients were stuck in limbo. Congress has refused to act on immigration reform and thus DACA was just another excuse to ignore the problem.
Donald Trump has now put the ball in Congress’ court.
Congress is currently led by the Republicans, who historically have demonstrated the willingness to tackle immigration reform. It was after all, a Republican president that advocated and signed the last meaningful immigration legislation. The Democrats pay lip service to immigration reform but their little secret is that their party bosses answer to the country’s unions who oppose any immigrants coming to work. The unions don’t want their membership to have to compete against immigrant labor. That is the dirty little secret.
Barack Obama tried. He implemented DACA, but in the end his party, the Democrats, did not offer any meaningful support to Obama. Thus, immigration reform was left to the stop-gap measure of DACA. The Republicans played the part of spoilers because of party politics.
In the end, as before, the immigration solution did not materialize.
There are Republicans who oppose immigration reform because they represent the part of the country that fears immigrants. But they are few.
Now that Congress has a deadline, they must move past the loud minority and do the right thing. A few Democrats and many Republicans now can deal with the immigration problem. All it takes is the willingness to put aside party politics and do the right thing.
There are those that argue that Donald Trump could have simply left DACA intact instead of adding fear to the DACA recipients by providing a deadline. The argument is that Congress is unlikely to pass meaningful immigration reform. Obama couldn’t get Congress to act.
But the problem remained that the DACA recipients kept living under a two-year cycle of fear. Each of them has to renew their DACA status each two years. As a short-term solution, DACA was at the mercy of politics. That is unending fear. There are those that will argue that under a Trump administration Congress is less likely to act reasonably. If Obama couldn’t do it, what makes anyone believe that an administration after Trump would be any different?
As much as Donald Trump has demonized Muslim and Mexican immigrants, in this case he did the right thing be forcing Congress to bring forth a permanent solution.
Will Congress do the right thing? That is the question all of you should be demanding of them. After all, Congress is the only one that can deliver a meaningful and long term solution to the immigration issue.