Although the DACA rollback was announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump said in a statement, “… I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.” That window is six months long, after which the federal government will stop renewing the two-year work permits that allow the so-called “Dreamers” to remain in the country.
Candidate Trump had said he’d terminate DACA “immediately” if elected. Eight months later – after much debate, and numerous marches, rallies and protests by “Dreamers” and their supporters – President Trump has taken action that is not nearly as draconian as Trump the candidate had described to address what was supposed to be a partial temporary solution to what has become a permanent problem.
And that’s immigration. DACA was enacted in 2012 through executive action by President Barack Obama, who called it a “temporary stopgap measure.”
Now, President Trump has rightfully put the program, and immigration reform in general, where it belongs – in the hands of Congress. Whether the bitterly divided House and Senate will do the work Americans elected them to do remains to be seen. But if they fail to act by March 5, DACA – and the lives of 800,000 dreamers – will unravel.
According to Department of Homeland Security officials, DACA recipients with permits whose renewals are set to expire between now and March 5 will be able to re-apply – so long as their applications are submitted by Oct. 5, one month from Tuesday. No permits will be revoked before their existing expiration dates and applications already in the pipeline will be processed.
But if DACA permits begin to expire next year, more than 1,000 immigrants per day stand to lose their work permits, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. And that should put a human face on a problem that needs addressing sooner rather than later.
The Trump administration paints DACA as an abuse of executive power that would be found unconstitutional in court; in fact, a 2016 Supreme Court tie vote left a nationwide injunction in place regarding expanding DACA and extending it to DAPA – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Ten conservative state officials had vowed to sue if Trump did not end DACA by Sept. 5; after Tuesday’s announcement, several state officials, including New Mexico’s attorney general, vowed to sue to get it back.
But rather than wait on another court fight and instead of continuing to leave DACA recipients, who wound up in the country illegally through no fault of their own, in limbo, some action needs to be taken. The bottom line hasn’t changed: This country, via Congress, needs to reform its immigration policies, get control of its borders, and decide who gets to immigrate here and under what conditions – and enforcement should not be optional.
Addressing the youngest immigrants should be the easiest piece of the immigration enforcement puzzle to assemble – and there are some proposals already out there.
It bears noting that if Congress had done its job and acted decisively on immigration in the previous administration, Obama’s executive order creating DACA would have been unnecessary. Had Congress acted decisively under the fledgling Trump administration, Tuesday’s threat would also have been unnecessary.
And if Congress fails to do its job this time, there should be severe consequences in the next election cycle.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.