Hmmm: Is Trump Bluffing on 'Ending' DACA?

Posted: Sep 05, 2017 2:05 PM

Earlier today, I outlined a common-sense compromise that a functional Congress could hammer out to formalize President Obama's DREAM Act-by-fiat, which President Trump is beginning to phase out.  Trump has indicated that he's moved by the plight of DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, who were brought to America as young children, and for whom this country has always felt like home.  Truth be told, Trump may have quietly kept the Obama-era executive action in place indefinitely, if not for threatened lawsuits from a number of Republican-held states that likely forced his hand.  As it stands today, the Trump administration has rolled out new guidelines that freeze new DACA applications immediately, and limit current recipients to one more re-application, which would be valid for a period of two years.  Here is ABC News' summary of the new policy:

- The administration won't consider new applications for legal status dated after Sept. 5.

- If you are not already protected by the program, you are out of luck, although applications filed before Tuesday that are pending will continue to be processed.

- Anyone who has a DACA permit expiring between now and March 5, 2018, can apply for a two-year renewal. That application must be submitted by Oct. 5.

- Some Dreamers, those with permits that expire between now and March 5, will be eligible for legal status for another two-plus years. For others, legal status ends as early as March 6.

For his part, the president is urging Congress to 'do its job' -- which suggests he's willing to sign a bill that would codify his predecessor's unilateral policy:

As mentioned above, I described the easiest path for this to be accomplished earlier, as well as the obstacles that could derail a permanent fix that most Americans -- the president included, apparently -- support.  Trump is right to put this on Congress, whose inaction over years helped Obama justify his constitutionally-dubious power grab.  The so-called DREAMers are an exceptionally sympathetic group (take a moment to read this young man's story), and lawmakers should move to formalize deportation-avoiding protections for otherwise-law-abiding members of that bloc.  That would be legal, fair and just, and pairing that endeavor with an immigration enforcement upgrade would be a reasonable legislative trade-off.  But is Team Trump already undermining the sense of urgency they're seeking to create by whispering to reporters that the president won't end up drawing a hard line against DREAMers if the issue isn't resolved by the legislative branch?  

Back to the ABC story: "Officials insist that even if Congress fails to enact new protection for the Dreamers, they will not be rounded up and deported. Officials say the priority for deportation will continue to be undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes."  And then there's this, via Politico:

In an effort to make Trump look like a compassionate leader whose hands are tied by impending lawsuits challenging Obama's overreach, unnamed White House officials are assuring journalists that (1) the Trump administration wouldn't round up and deport DREAMers after their protections expire, (2) federal law enforcement will continue to prioritize criminal aliens for targeting and deportation, and (3) perhaps Trump won't really end DACA if Congress drops the ball yet again.  The political and humanitarian impulse behind this messaging is understandable, but by tipping their hand that all of this may simply amount to a can-kicking bluff, White House aides are diminishing the likelihood that Congress will take Trump seriously on the issue.  Ben Shapiro reasons that the new policy -- though offered as a middle ground solution designed to spur Congress -- may have the practical impact of satisfying no one and guaranteeing that nothing is achieved:

For what it's worth, House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement this morning rejecting Obama's DACA as unconstitutional, but endorsing Trump's call for lawmakers on Capitol Hill to reach 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:"

Incidentally, why do Republicans keep assailing Obama's action as a violation of the constitution's separation of powers?  Because federal courts struck down a similar executive amnesty maneuver Obama attempted in his second term.  Plus, it's hard to ignore these flashbacks from a certain Harvard Law-educated former constitutional law lecturer at the University of Chicago, speaking in 2011 -- just over a year before he flip-flopped on his own legal analysis and implemented DACA.  The key bit starts around the (1:30) mark:

Conservatives' constitutional concerns aren't frivolous on this front, and ending an unlawful order is the right thing to do. But so is going about it with an eye toward judiciousness and fairness -- via the people's elected representatives -- to solve the underlying problem formally and permanently, in order to protect a group of young people who deserve protection.

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