When Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that the Trump administration was rescinding President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, I was wandering around Charleston, South Carolina. And deep in the city’s beautiful historic district, there’s a street called “Zig Zag Alley.” On DACA, President Trump seems stuck there.
What is Trump’s position on DACA? Who knows. The news conference by Sessions was gleefully harsh. In announcing the end of the program, he echoed Trump’s campaign rhetoric against illegal immigrants, saying that the DACA “Dreamer” kids were lawbreakers and that DACA had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
In his official statement, Trump said more of the same, writing he was ending DACA out of “compassion for the millions of Americans victimized” by illegal immigration.
Sounds pretty clear: Trump thinks the “Dreamers” must be deported because they are a menace to American jobs. But wait — after a massive wave of bipartisan blowback against his decision, Trump seemed to reverse field, essentially calling on Congress in a tweet to “legalize DACA” and saying if Congress failed to do so, he’d “revisit this issue!”
So much for those Americans “victimized” by DACA beneficiaries, not to mention Sessions’ view that the program was unconstitutional. Adding to the confusion, Trump further emphasized that DACA recipients have “nothing to worry about,” at least for six months.
Trump is lost on Zig Zag Alley, and Democrats should hang tough on giving him the right map. They should push for an up-or-down vote on DACA, therefore forcing Republicans to be on record either supporting the hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” protected by DACA, or opposing them and leaving them subject to deportation.
If anti-immigration Republicans like Sessions want to get on record opposing DACA, let them. After all, public support for DACA is overwhelming. According to a recent poll, close to 60 percent of Americans believe the DACA Dreamers should be allowed to stay and, indeed, become U.S. citizens. Only 15 percent agree with Sessions, and think they should be deported.
This poll reflects the basic decency and common sense of the American people, and those who oppose protecting the Dreamers should face popular wrath. By definition, Dreamers are not criminals because criminals do not even qualify for the program. Nor were the Dreamers lawbreakers, given that they were all brought here as kids. Dreamers are contributing members of society, serving in the military, going to college, gainfully employed, starting businesses, having families — and many now have U.S. citizen children. We should call the “Dreamers” by their real name: Americans. They are Americans in every sense of the word, except current law.
In the words of Mr. Bumble in “Oliver Twist,” the current law “is an ass — an idiot.” Congress needs to change it, and affirmatively embrace these 800,000 Americans in a clean, uncluttered vote. Yes or no: Do you embrace the Dreamers, or do you want to throw them out?
The only thing that should clutter the vote is a specific provision protecting the data the Department of Homeland Security obtained when Dreamers applied for the program. DHS promised this data would not be used for immigration enforcement purposes, and the government should keep its promises.
Trump’s proposed “wall” should definitely not clutter the vote. As most Americans have surmised, the wall is a crazy idea. It’d be a massive taxpayer boondoggle, with current estimates saying it could cost more than $25 billion. And it would solve a non-problem: Illegal immigration by Mexicans is at historic lows.
Meanwhile, a wall would do nothing to address the actual problems manifesting at the border, such as the violence in Central America that has been driving kids and families to our border to claim asylum. A wall won’t solve that problem, because asylum seekers are legally entitled to have their claims heard.
Nor will a wall block the vast amounts of cocaine and opioids that are smuggled into the country. This is because drugs are smuggled in trucks and cars coming through the official ports of entry, like El Paso and San Ysidro.
Because nobody is proposing that the wall be built across Interstate 5 between Tijuana and San Diego, or across the Bridge of the Americas between Juarez and El Paso, a wall won’t address that problem. Bottom line: the wall is an expensively dumb idea that will solve nothing, and it should not clutter a yes-or-no vote on the Dreamers.
Nor should proponents of comprehensive immigration reform be tempted to tie a vote on the Dreamers to a larger reform of the immigration laws. Given the poisonous politics of this Congress, such an effort would be doomed to failure — and leave the Dreamers stranded without relief six months from now. We surely need immigration reform, but that fight should wait until a better time, with a more immigration-friendly Congress and president of either party who, like Presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama did, strongly believes in a sensible reform that lifts law-abiding undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, embracing them as the Americans they already are in every way but paper.
Democrats should hang tough. The only way for President Trump to get out of the Zig Zag Alley cul-de-sac on DACA should be a clean yes-or-no vote on whether to protect the Dreamers or not. Get immigration opponents on the record, and let them face the wrath of most Americans, who want to embrace these good young people and make them officially our own.