The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected from deportation 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, while allowing them to work — is yet another cruel and misguided move by a president who sees immigrants as little more than political fodder.
And yet, a silver lining of sorts has emerged. Because the policy will be phased out in six months — “a wind-down of DACA,” according to President Trump — Congress has enough time to pass legislation to permanently protect these youth. A bill protecting beneficiaries of the protection, commonly known as “dreamers,” offers the Republican-led Congress a real opportunity to score something that’s been elusive for the GOP so far: an accomplishment.
That work has already begun. Over the last few weeks, as the administration hinted it might end the program, many congressional Republicans came to its defense, including Senator Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. Most notably, House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Trump to keep the protections last week. “I actually don’t think he should do that. I believe that this is something Congress has to fix,” Ryan said on a Wisconsin radio station. In July, Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the bipartisan “Dream Act” to grant permanent legal status to certain young immigrants.
Democrats have been nearly uniform in support of keeping the protections.
That so many in Congress support the policy only speaks to its immense popularity. Private sector leaders have also rallied to its defense: Scores of university and college presidents, business and tech leaders, and evangelical leaders have been reaching out to the White House on behalf of dreamers. Republican voters overwhelmingly support allowing DACA recipients, some of whom have no connection to the country of their birth, to stay in the United States.
To participate in the program, applicants had to show they had no criminal record, arrived in the United States before age 16, and have lived here since June 15, 2007. They also could not have been older than 30 when the Obama administration implemented the policy, in 2012.
Dreamers are firmly integrated into our communities: 97 percent of DACA holders are in the workforce or go to school. They’re attending Harvard University; they’re nurses; they’re first responders in Houston. These 800,000 lives are being disrupted, starting now.
Last week, Arizona GOP Senator John McCain, penned a fiery op-ed calling on Congress to get its act together: “We are proving inadequate not only to our most difficult problems but also to routine duties.” At a time “when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct,” he wrote, “[w]e must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people.”
The Republican Congress thus far has been short on accomplishments, wasting months on health care posturing. The GOP tax reform effort also appears stalled. Passing immigration legislation would not only answer McCain’s call for Congress to step up to a destructive president, but it would let lawmakers say they’d really achieved something in the public interest.