It wasn’t a surprise, but like any loss it still hurts, even if you know it’s coming.
Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the Trump administration’s ending of DACA, the executive order known as Deferred Action for Children Arrivals. Sessions called President Obama’s executive order “unconstitutional” and an “overreach.” Remote language that does not convey the impact on the children brought here illegally by their parents and others.
From the beginning President Obama’s DACA executive order hung under the proverbial sword of Damocles, the potential danger always present. Reporters asked the young people who volunteered to exchange their hidden identities for registration in the government program, "What will you do if the order is reversed by the next president?” But the young people who were growing older living in the shadows, put that nagging inquiry aside, and grabbed at the chance to come into the sunlight. The 800,000 who’ve benefited from the program wanted the chance to prove themselves through school and service.
Since last week there have been many interviews, protests, and pleas, anguish and anger. “I’m not leaving my home,” one young woman declared. From a young man, “We’re not going to stop fighting.” And from many this defiant statement: “I am not a criminal.” But, without DACA’s protection, the so-called DREAMers are obvious prey for a Justice Department whose stated policy is deportation of undocumented criminals, but whose recent arrests and deportations have targeted tax paying residents with no criminal history.
President Trump’s dismantling of the Obama executive order now becomes just another example of a well-used political strategy —kicking the can down the road. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan says it’s up to Congress to fix the problem for DREAMers who most legislators believe should not be punished because they were brought here illegally. But, prior attempts at comprehensive immigration reform or even partial reform have failed.
Sixteen years ago, Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch proposed the DREAM Act, shorthand for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It had its best chance of passing back then when crossing the aisle was considered a part of governance, not an act of political suicide or a loyalty test. Now, two decades later, Durbin and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham are offering a new DREAM Act which would permanently prevent deportation for the DREAMers. But, its predicted fate is grim too. Added to the mix are mostly Democratic Attorneys General suing the Trump administration to stop DACA’s expiration. I see these DREAMers as the Rosa Parks of immigration, the best possible example of striving immigrants worthy of a shot at citizenship. And yet, here they are, once again, pawns in a cruel game of political football.
By all accounts, President Trump struggled with his decision to end DACA, claiming recently, “I love the DREAMers.” Maybe that explains his confusing tweet suggesting that if Congress doesn’t address DACA, he will “revisit” it.
Meanwhile, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll reveals that 58 percent of Americans think the so-called DREAMers should be allowed to stay and become citizens, and another 18 percent think they should be allowed to stay and become legal residents. We may not all agree that this is an issue of “moral urgency” as former President Obama says, but most of us know that sending DACA’s young people back to the shadows simply doesn’t make sense.