On the Use and Misuse of DACA Information

By Dan Cadman on October 30, 2017

Several Democratic senators, among them coy-but-possible future presidential candidate Kamala Harris, the uber-"progressive" former California attorney general, have written to the Department of Homeland Security to urge it not to "misuse" the personal information provided by recipients of the Obama White House's administrative amnesty, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), commonly known as "Dreamers".

This assertion of "misuse" is wrong on so many levels, even aside from the fact that the senators who have written the letter are so adamantly against cooperating with the Trump administration about anything that there is no political reason whatever for them to expect any kind of cooperation or concessions in return.

First, it would be absurd to apply such confidentiality after-the-fact to a program that manifested itself as an executive branch intrusion into the legislative prerogatives reserved to the Congress by Article I of the Constitution. (President Trump has ordered the program phased out in recognition of its unlawful nature.) Even the presidential administration that dreamed up the program out of whole cloth didn't make such a promise, although that may have been the de facto hands-off policy.

Second, the law already defines the privacy protections available to illegal aliens and nonimmigrants, which is to say, none. The federal Privacy Act makes clear that its provisions extend only to "U.S. persons" which it specifically defines as U.S. citizens and lawful resident aliens. DACA recipients obviously fall far short of that standard.

Third, why would it be a misuse of such information if it were used to pinpoint selected DACA recipients for removal if, for instance, it became known that they had lied on their forms about past crimes or gang affiliations or the like? And make no mistake, that is exactly what is being defined as "misuse", as is clear from a perusal of other media outlets that have reported on the senators' letter. When I prepare and fill out my taxes, would it be reasonable to demand that I be safeguarded from investigation if I lie or commit fraud simply because I am submitting personal information? Ditto the day if and when I seek Social Security benefits. Unlikely, isn't it? So why should illegal aliens be given a pass on that?

Fourth, and probably most important, we have seen the effects when recipients of amnesties are protected via various confidentiality statutes — in effect, they are shielded from the ordinary operation of enforcement in a host of areas, from everyday lawbreaking to national security investigations, because the keeper of the information is forbidden from providing it to those who most need it. This happened after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed. It should never happen again.

As to misuse — real misuse — of the information? There are already plenty of administrative agency, civil, and criminal penalties that exist to punish officials who abuse information under color of law. Shouldn't that suffice?

Given the possibility that there will be some kind of future "Dreamers" legislation coming out of Congress and headed to the president's desk, one of the non-negotiables should be the ability to use the information they submit when needed to further law enforcement inquiries, whether for immigration or any other legitimate purpose. Taking access to the information off the table is a serious mistake, and smacks of a double standard. No U.S. citizen is ever given a pass on using his information against him if he violates the law.