photo of DACA participant ("dreamer") who is a teacher's assistant in her office

Trump’s Disordered & Opportunistic DACA Messaging & The Scapegoating Of Dreamers

by Richard Cameron

Trump’s DACA Messaging

I’m seeing a lot of heated discussions about the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program and Trump’s handling of it.  If you’re following DACA at all, you are aware that it came into existence through an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2012.  

The program provided for the children of illegal migrants that were brought to the US as children, to register with immigration authorities and remain for 2 year periods, then apply again at the end of the term for a continuance of legal status. 

Applicants were to have and maintain unblemished criminal records;  have resided in the U.S. prior to 2007 and been under 16 years of age at that time.  An estimated 800,000 to 1 million individuals, nicknamed “dreamers”, have registered under DACA. 

There was an outcry at the time from Republicans that creating such a program without the legislative partnership of Congress, was Constitutionally illegitimate.  There was an argument to be made on that – the argument being that the order went well beyond a president merely instructing a cabinet agency (DHS) to administratively prioritize enforcement efforts along certain lines.

The practical problem in not developing a plan to organize prioritized enforcement and devise a separate status for these young people, is that Congress has underfunded immigration courts and personnel, which would make removing everyone illegally present in the United States at once, an impossibility.

During the presidential campaign of last Fall, Donald Trump tossed red meat to his voters at the rallies that he was going to “immediately terminate” DACA and “deport them all”. That was either directly before or after the chants of “Lock Her Up!”

Ms. Dooley, responding to the president on Twitter, certainly heard Trump loud and clear during the election:

It was a very attractive proposition to his followers and was well received, even though it was a complete flip of what Trump told Fox News in 2012 – just 4 years prior:

“You know that and I know that, and you see it all the time. Whether it’s picking grapes or doing something else, you have the jobs that a lot of people aren’t going to want, so I don’t think it’s as complicated as that. We really have to come up with a solution with compassion. We have to show some compassion. We can’t just throw everybody out.”

After Trump was elected, he did yet another complete about face on the subject:

“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Are you dizzy yet?  If not, stick around, the hairy part of the DACA roller coaster ride is coming up. Here’s the timeline of Trump’s previous statements on DACA, starting with the run up to the primaries:

Terminating DACA

July 2015: Yes, “immediately.”
Trump: “I will immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration, immediately

August 2016: Yes, “immediately.”
Trump: “We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants.”

November 2016: “We’re going to work something out.”
Trump: “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud … They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs.  And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

January 2017: “They shouldn’t be very worried.”
Trump: “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border. We’re gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried.”

Tuesday (September 4th): We’ll end it … gradually.
Trump: “This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out (Editor’s Note – see July & August 2016 quotes). Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

Trump, in recent days, has been all over the map, making different statements, both officially from the White House and via Twitter, to different audiences. On just a single day, his positions were dizzyingly inconsistent.  First it was subtly stoking the resentments of nativists.

Then it was divorcing himself from any involvement in making the policy “sausage”.

At this point, I’d like to address the comments I’m seeing along the lines of “the law is the law and they are law breakers and they have to go”.

First of all, those eligible for DACA protection, had no conscious role in crossing our border. It would not have been possible for them to look at mom and dad and say, “there’s a law against crossing the American border without papers, and so I’m not breaking in and I’m not going with you.”  And they grew up in this country and it is their country.

They have nothing to return to in Mexico anymore than you or I do.  Were they all of a sudden, supposed to get an epiphany in 7th grade about their status and pack a backpack and head off into a country they know nothing of?

We pass new laws when the circumstances warrant it and that is what Congress needs to do in this case – and I hope they do the right thing – the humane thing.  The thing that is a credit to our country’s reputation and standing. “Execute true justice, showing mercy and compassion everyone to his brother.” (Zech. 7:9 NKJV)

The DACA situation is one campaign promise I hope Trump breaks.

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