On Tuesday, September 5, the Trump administration announced that the unconstitutional and illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be allowed to continue for six months, and then wound down by letting all outstanding two-year permits expire starting on March 5, 2018. That means, absent action by Congress, DACA would finally come to an end only in March 2020.
It took the president this long to make good on his campaign promise to terminate the program because he apparently was conflicted about the aliens who make up the so-called "Dreamer" population. His decision came under pressure from a consortium of states that had threatened to haul him into court to force an end to DACA; the deadline they had set to do this was September 5.
The White House having made the official announcement, some media are reporting that Texas and other state officials took the president at his word and signaled that they would cease their efforts to have the program halted in federal court.
Notwithstanding the protracted timeline for phase-down of the program, in the main, the president received kudos from conservative and middle-of-the-road organizations and pundits for showing some nuance and restraint. Unsurprisingly, progressives and open borders advocates — including the former president who initiated DACA by imperial fiat when Congress failed to enact legislation granting amnesty — denounced him as cruel; this was hyper-partisan hyperbole of the worst sort.
It was obvious that this phase-out approach to ending the program would, and was intended to, put a great deal of pressure on Congress to do something. But just to make that clear (as if it weren't), within a span of mere hours President Trump felt the need to gild the lily via his most favored device, Twitter:
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
In the lead-up to the much-anticipated DACA announcement, a number of representatives and senators had already weighed in to say that it was time to do something about the Dreamers via legislative amnesty, which in truth is the only legitimate and constitutional way to handle the matter.
But other legislators, and advocates of immigration control and enforcement, had said that there should be trade-offs worthy of such an amnesty — for instance, nationally mandated implementation of the E-verify system to ensure jobs are reserved only for lawful workers; changes to legal immigration away from a chain-migration system and more toward one emphasizing skills, etc. This makes perfect sense, if one accepts the need for "doing something" about Dreamers.
I myself don't accept that need, though I may be in the minority. As I've said before, anything that grants amnesty to people who were smuggled as minors into the United States acts to ensure a future filled with waves of new smuggled minors because it acts as a beacon. The mere talk of an amnesty is often enough to set feet into motion south of our border. I see a perpetuation of this situation as immoral, and the greater sin. Alien minors and family units coming north from the Central American "triangle" countries must traverse jungles, mountains, and deserts; will confront searing heat and bone-chilling cold, usually with inappropriate clothing and supplies; they will face hypothermia and dehydration; and they will be exposed along the way to venomous insects and reptiles, as well as predatory animals and humans, the latter being the worst of all.
But if there is to be such an amnesty, it is paramount that it must be in trade for useful and verifiable border and enforcement controls worth having.
With one short tweet, the president has undercut the political pressures Democrats and Dreamer advocates themselves face in making a deal to get what they want. For a man who touts himself as master of the art of the deal, it's inexplicable.
My advice in response would be simple and twofold:
- Congress should call his bluff and do nothing. It would be hard for a president who campaigned for the job by calling the program an unconstitutional abuse of executive power to reverse course once again in six months time if nothing is done. The cost to him as his base abandons him in droves would be far too dear.
- Texas and the other states need to take heed of this tweet, and pursue the lawsuit; it's clear that the president can't be trusted to be true to his word.