photo credit: Professional Association of Milwaukee Public Education
Published in The Moderate Voice on September 4, 2017
The leader of the free world seems poised to end DACA, the program put on place by then-president Barack Obama that has kept nearly 800,000 “Dreamers” from deportation. DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals- was meant to save the people brought to America as children through know fault of their own from legal endangerment while they have been in limbo. Candidate Trump had vowed to scrap the program but after his election said he had “tremendous heart” for them and has resisted taking steps to dismantle it in his eight months in office. But the threat of a lawsuit from a dozen Republican Attorneys General and the counsel of his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions (suddenly his BFF again) have apparently convinced him to proceed with a six month delay to give Congress the opportunity to decide its fate. Okay, but what about the limbo it’s placing Dreamers and their families in? Moreover, what about the limbo nearly all of the president’s immigration policies have placed people in?
Whether one agrees with the policies this administration carries out or doesn’t, a big problem with the president who says he has “heart” is that he keeps groups in limbo for far too long. The travel ban transcends it. Even with the exemptions the Supreme Court has carved out (for grandparents, etc), 24,000 refugees have completed the arduous process for coming to America before the Supreme Court allowed the travel ban to become law. Even if most of these people will be first on the list when the new fiscal year begins on October 1 (and whether Congress and the president agree on a budget by then is an open question), many might have to start the process all over again. I understand it is our prerogative as a nation to decide who comes here and who doesn’t and that there should be entitlements for anyone in that regard but taking this action is abundantly and inherently unfair.
Next, there is the situation of the Haitian refugees. Those are the men and women who came to America following the earthquake that devastated their country in 2010. They have been in holding patterns since the dawn of the administration – then-Homeland Security Security John Kelly extended the program for six months. But that times is quickly ending and a number of Haitians, fearful that the program might not be renewed, are already taking refuge in Canada, which is causing problems for that nation but that’s another story). I might add that not only is the indecision keeping Haitians in limbo but it is doing the same for their employers, many of whom are dependent on them for seasonal labor. In other words, the contributions they have made to the American economy has been tremendous.
Another thing that needs to be addressed. This business with giving ICE unlimited power to do as they please with illegal immigrants. I’ve heard several times about people who have been in the United States for decades – a restaurant owner in Ohio with three kids and no criminal record is one example. These people have been rounded up and shipped back to their home country just like that. Now we are a nation of laws and I’m not saying it’s practical to say to every illegal – well, gee-whiz, you’re here, just forget about it. But to have a one-size fits all method is a colossal mistake that is leading to unnecessary disarray and hardship for the people it impacts. Trump should have provided guidance with his executive orders.
Now let’s look at one positive of the president’s expected DACA punt if there is one. Congress has been talking about how it is their obligation to determine the program’s fate – not the administrations and, though it would have been nice if those in the GOP had shared that view seven years ago when President Obama had been advocating for it, the all is now in their court and leaders have been vocal about running with it. As mean-spirited as the president’s actions may be, it does force Congress’s hand and, with so much at stake as far as their own electoral fates – the 2018 midterms are now 14 months away, I don’t envision a scenario where something won’t be enacted even if it’s down to the wire- though of course the devil is always in the details.
Which brings me to this business about Congress not being able to get it done because they have a lot on their plate between now and December is bunk – Congress makes its own hours just like it makes its own pay. When Paul Ryan, Orrin Hatch and James Lankford are talking about the need to address a priority that is not at all associated with the conservative platform, that nor only means it’s very reasonable to think it might be done but that they because it must be done (of course, at the risk of repeating myself given their new found come to Jesus moment on this issue should mean, as others have said, they should have taken up the issue when Obama was president). By the way, in the event that Congress does not act within the six month timetable, would the president offer an extension?
In that vein, Iowa Republican Steve King, who may be as much of a friend to immigrants as mice are to cheese, says that even the six month delay Trump is advocating is “Republican suicide.” Well, policies such as this are too important to be held hostage by political concerns. And frankly, so are the hundreds of thousands of people who are impacted. Let’s end with the limbo and let’s act with the hearts and compassion as priority number one. After all, this is America. People have the right to be dreamers.