Republicans who suggest that President Trump had no choice but to stop protecting from deportation immigrants illegally brought into this country as children are trying to cover their backsides for a despicable act that could have been avoided.
Trump supposedly acted to avoid a threatened lawsuit by xenophobic groups that have wanted to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ever since President Barack Obama created it by executive order in 2012. They argue that Obama overstepped the constitutional authority of the presidency.
The threat of a lawsuit shouldn’t mean capitulation before the case is even heard. Trump bad-mouthed DACA while running for president, but later said he didn’t want to harm the “Dreamers,” many of whom know only the United States as their home and have never violated any other law.
Trump suggested support for legislation that achieves the same goal. “Congress, get ready to do your job — DACA!” he tweeted Tuesday. Later in the day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA was dead, but that the Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t target the program’s participants for immediate deportation.
Having a sword dangled over your head by someone who promises not to drop it right away isn’t reassuring. Rather than seeking to avoid litigation, Trump could have let any lawsuit run its course while Congress tried to replace DACA before any Dreamers were deported.
That’s a heavy lift, but not an impossible one. Several Republicans urged Trump to leave DACA alone before he killed it, including White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security warned that ending the program would cause unnecessary chaos for immigrant families.
After Sessions’ announcement, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said he hoped Congress can find “a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country.” Those words are empty unless Ryan and other Republicans resist political expedience.
Trump recently explained why he reversed a campaign position not to send more troops to Afghanistan. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” he said.
That’s true when you put politics aside to do what’s right. But Trump didn’t do that with DACA. Politics is the only reason Trump went after the Dreamers. Letting DACA live would have put him at odds with a part of his base that he does not want to offend. Don’t count on him to lead the effort to pass legislation that again protects the Dreamers.
Because Sessions said that immigration enforcement agents would not immediately come after the Dreamers, their fate is in the hands of a highly partisan Congress that has consistently proved incapable of working together.
Unless the rallies and protests across America in support of the Dreamers become the catalyst for a bipartisan answer, their fates will remain uncertain. That shouldn’t happen in a country built on the dreams of immigrants and others who proved their worth to America when given a chance.