As published in the Immigration Daily on September 6, 2017.
President Trump’s ending of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program on September 5, 2017, was hardhearted in act and tone. Given a choice between fighting to preserve the program in court against an alliance of 9 attorney generals threatening to sue to end the program or caving in to his Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions who would not defend against a suit and pressure from his white nationalist base, Mr. Trump chose the latter. Although the ending of the program provides 6 months for Congress to pass legislation to save the Dreamers and work permission (those expiring by March 5, 2018, have one month until October 5, 2017, to apply for a new two-year permit), Mr. Trump clearly put the onus on Congress. His later day vacillating tweet that if Congress could not legalize DACA in 6 months, “I will revisit this issue!” appeared to be another of his empty threats as he already gave up his authority to continue the program. It remains to be seen how enthusiastic he will be in fighting for saving legislation, but early indications are that he will do little for the Dreamers. Instead of conciliatory expressions of regret and hope, the President took the opportunity to slam former President Obama for creating the program through executive authority; emphasized that he stands by his “America First” agenda; stated that “We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling and forgotten Americans”; called the program an “amnesty first approach”; and his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Mr. Trump would support Dreamer legislation, as long as Congress passed it as part of a broader immigration overhaul to strengthen the border, protect American jobs and enhance enforcement.
In other words, the chances of Dreamer legislation passing unscathed and alone are not good as the Republicans can be relied upon to hold the bill hostage for other items on their anti-immigration wish list. Mr. Trump himself in his official statement on the ending of DACA put forth his views:
Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and job seekers.
Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first. We are facing the symptom of a larger problem, illegal immigration, along with the many other chronic immigration problems Washington has left unsolved. We must reform our green card system, which now favors low skilled immigration and puts immense strain on U. S. taxpayers. We must base future immigration on merit – we want those coming into the country to be able to support themselves financially, to contribute to our economy, and to love our country and the values it stands for. Under a merit-based system, citizens will enjoy higher employment, rising wages, and a stronger middle class. Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue have introduced the RAISE Act, which would establish this merit-based system and produce lasting gains for the American People.
The RAISE legislation would chop off family-based immigration for parents of U. S. citizens, adult children of U. S. citizens and permanent residents, and brothers and sisters of U. S. citizens, as well as terminate the visa lottery program. Its effect would be to lower U. S. legal immigration by half within 10 years.
There is less incentive for Congress to act within the 6 months because of Mr. Trump’s vacillating tweet. Democrats would be harder pressed to agree to significant anti-immigration measures given the justification that the President would take up the topic again anyway. Mr. Trump can also justify to himself a Pontius Pilate washing of the hands attitude having given his empty threat instead of taking a leadership role and working with Congress to ensure the passage of Dreamer legislation. For without heavy pressure from above, even the heavy to-do list of Congress may stymie the passage of Dreamer relief as Congress must deal with the consequences of Hurricanes Harvey and now Irma, Mr. Trump’s repeated sorties in resurrecting repeal and replace of the ACA, tax legislation, infrastructure spending, and stopgap measures to fund the federal government if a compromise cannot be reached by the end of September.
While expressing great sympathy and empathy with the DACA recipients, immigration proponents and all those opposed to the Trump agenda should look hard to establish the tone for elections in 2018 and 2020. The 2018 midterm elections provide an opportunity to stymie Mr. Trump’s rogue style of governing if one or both houses of Congress can be regained. 2020 presents the chance to rid the nation of his presidency. The difficulty is that while Mr. Trump’s popularity is sagging tremendously according to the polls, many of his supporters decry or say nothing about him in public and vote for him in private. They see the choice as clinging to the lifestyle of conservative and/or center values that they were born with and going with a Pied Piper promising to take them back 20 years ago when their lot was better or looking with horror at a future of liberal values including rebellion against the police and other authorities, gender bending, attacks against the establishment, gay rights, the expansion of blacks and other minorities’ rights, and global trade agreements enhancing the fortunes of many in the nation but not them.
To capture enough votes in this populace, Democrats must go back to center left and not farther to the left. The Party must lower the volume on the left, and Democrats must appear more attuned to the concerns of those in small town America. Statue bashing for one should stop as it leads to confrontation and confuses many who regard the statues only as sign posts to American history. Protest must continue as people must be continually made aware of what is worth fighting for, but unhelpful confrontations like in colleges between students and teachers over professors’ remarks should be de-escalated as they seem to be part of an unwarranted leftist movement against free speech. In the recent cases involving Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and Yale University, the scenario appeared to be the extreme left attacking the moderate left.
Although this must seem antithetical to the instincts of many liberals, many must know in their hearts that their stridency is taken with alarm by many in the center and is anathema to them and to conservatives who wonder what and where their place would be in a nation with such values. As for the Dreamers, one hopes that they will continue to dream and work towards a peaceable nonviolent solution to their status. Acts of violence out of frustration would damn them at a time when they have the sympathy and ear of most Americans.