By Kevin Bailey
Donald Trump is using the cover of the media’s understandable focus on Hurricane Harvey and his pardon of bigoted Joe Arpaio as cover for a renewed attack on immigrants. Trump is considering killing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation. A decision to kill the program could come this week.
The administration has been considering killing DACA for months. While Trump initially chose not to immediately kill the policy—put in place by the Pres. Obama—when he first took office despite his belligerent attacks on it during the campaign. Trump has gone from promising to end it immediately (during his campaign) to claiming it a “very, very hard” decision to make.
Even as Trump claimed DACA recipients should “rest easy”, meetings were happening in his administration regarding killing the program. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a vocal opponent of DACA since its inception, has been working to build momentum within Trump’s administration for destroying the program.
Over the last five years, DACA has protected nearly 800,000 children brought to the US without documentation, allowing them to live without the proverbial Sword of Damocles of deportation hanging over their head. Many of these Dreamers, as they have been called, have no memories of the country from which they immigrated. Additionally, to even be allowed into the program, these young people have to pass background checks and keep their record clean. Despite these safeguards, so-called “red states” are attempting to convince Trump to kill the program by September 5. These states have threatened to sue–led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with attorney generals from nine other Republican states–if Trump doesn’t kill the program by that date. A similar program designed to protect parents of Dreamers, has already been brought down using similar tactics. In fact, that program has never even been allowed to begin. However, some legal experts say the wording and protocols of DACA give it a better chance of surviving in court, should Trump decide not to kill it by September 5.
The lawsuit regarding that similar program is ongoing, and if the deadline isn’t met, Paxton has threatened to add DACA to that lawsuit. Doing this would force Trump’s administration to either defend DACA in court or let it die. Ironically, such a scenario would leave the hypothetical “defense” of the Dreamers to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has long opposed the program. When the program went into effect back in 2012, Sessions–then a Senator–railed against it, calling it “blatant executive overreach.”
Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly, who was then Director of Homeland Security, lobbied Congress in an attempt to get them to “fix” the program. The thought was that this might blunt the complaints of DACA being enacted by Pres. Obama use of his executive authority. Congress has subsequently entertained four separate proposals to offer some limited permanent protection to the Dreamers. Of these, one was proposed by Republicans, one by Democrats, and two were bipartisan proposals. Meanwhile, Trump has threatened to shut down the government (funding for which runs out at the end of September), if proposed the proposed funding does not give him money to build his wildly unpopular “border wall.” Some legislators believe this might allow for a compromise, essentially rewarding Trump with funding for his wall in return for a promise that he and the Republicans will stop targeting Dreamers. Essentially, Trump and the Republicans are holding the future of the Dreamers hostage in an attempt to fund Trump’s Quixotic campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall.”
Let us all hope that America truly is better than this–that America, as a country, still values immigrants more highly than does the man currently occupying the highest office in our country.