Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that the Trump administration will rescind DACA, the Obama administration program that defers the deportation of hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children.
Termination of the DACA program is such an unspeakably cruel act that even Trump had expressed reservations about it. When he began to signal that he intended to end the program, Trump repeatedly insisted that he would do so with “heart.”
Even Republican lawmakers not otherwise known as bleeding hearts, including Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch, have urged Trump not to rescind DACA.
Yet Sessions today announced Trump’s decision to do exactly that. Sessions said that the DACA will be rescinded in “an orderly lawful wind down” process that would “create a time period for Congress to act, should it so choose.”
Nowhere in his statement did Sessions actually call on Congress to act. He simply articulated the obvious fact that Congress could act if it wanted to. Whoopee.
Don’t hold your breath in the hope that the Republican Congress will step in with legislation that provides Dreamers with protections similar to DACA. Sessions was clear in expressing the Trump administration’s antipathy not only to the way DACA was enacted, but also to its substance. He stressed the fact that DACA was put in place only after Congress refused to enact similar proposals, and was therefore inconsistent with the will of Congress. He referred to the program as “amnesty,” a Republican code word for the Devil.
And don’t expect the Republican Congress to act with any more urgency, insight or decency than it has acted in its attempts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with a program that would deprive tens of millions of Americans with health insurance. Or to act at all.
Meantime, nearly a million of the most vulnerable among us will be relegated to living in abject terror of being “deported” from the only home they have ever known to countries with which most have no connection and have never even visited.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, was an administrative program enacted by the Obama administration in 2012. It provided young undocumented immigrants with a mechanism to request relief from deportation for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
Among other things, applicants were required to submit proof that they came to the United States before their 16th birthday, were either in school or had obtained the equivalent of a high school degree, had continuously resided in the U.S. since 2007, and had committed no crimes.
In other words, immigrants who were brought to the United States as infants or young children were invited to come in out of the dark. They were told to identify themselves to the government in a leap of faith that doing so would shield them from deportation, and enable them to work openly and without fear in our country.
Republicans immediately jumped all over the Obama administration’s adoption of DACA. The opposition was roughly divided into two camps.
One camp, whose most prominent voice was the repulsive Iowa Representative Steve King, rejected the underlying premise of providing some measure of relief to innocent children who had been brought into the country through no fault of their own. King and others of his ilk dismissed DACA as nothing more than flagrant “amnesty.” Jeff Sessions resides firmly in this camp.
The other faction of Republican resistance, personified by Marco Rubio, showed a less ugly, more legalistic face. They argued that the implementation of DACA by the Obama administration was an unlawful usurpation of Congressional authority by the executive branch.
Many, including Rubio, give lip service to the proposition that Congress should act to protect the so-called DACA “Dreamers,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that the congressional Republicans are dead set against enacting any kind of immigration reform until they get everything they want on border security. Here’s Steve King on the subject: “Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law. Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide.”
The Obama administration has defended DACA on the ground that it wasn’t enacting a new immigration law. Rather, it was simply establishing priorities for prosecutorial discretion in determining how existing laws should be enforced.
As of this date, that legal issue remains unresolved by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, some 800,000 young people who have grown up knowing only America as their home, decided to place their trust in the American government to reveal their identities and addresses in order to request deferred action under DACA.
The median age of Dreamers when they were brought to the United States was six years old. Many were infants.
Try to imagine the sense of betrayal and the fear that the Dreamers must feel over Trump’s action. Most of them know only the United States as a home. The vast majority of Dreamers are either in school or are high school graduates working in productive jobs. They have complete lives in the United States, including homes, boyfriends, girlfriends, and family. Many have absolutely no connection to the “home” countries to which they could be deported.
The Dreamers trusted that their government would protect them if they came forward and identified themselves. Instead, it turns out that coming in out of the dark will not protect them, it will only lead the Trump/Sessions deportation force to their doors.
Follow Philip on Twitter at @PhilipRotner. Philip is an engaged citizen and a columnist who has spent over 40 years practicing law. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he has been associated.