The Trump Administration’s effort to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program may finally succeed in getting Congress to do its job.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that the Administration will cease issuing new permits under DACA, which President Barack Obama implemented through executive order in 2012. DACA allows immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to seek two-year, renewable permits to work legally in the U.S. Some 800,000 of the permits have been issued.
In addition to no longer issuing new permits, the Trump Administration said it would stop renewing existing permits on March 5, 2018. Trump and Sessions left open the possibility that Congress could write and approve immigration reform that would address the plight of those in the DACA program.
Trump said last week that he thinks the Dreamers — as those with DACA permits are known — “are terrific.” Yet, his approach to repealing the DACA program has created significant uncertainty for them. Most of the Dreamers had no say in their families’ decisions to come to the U.S. Most have only known life in America. Now they are dependent on Congress to act or risk being deported to what is, for them, a foreign country.
That’s no small risk. Past attempts at immigration reform have failed amid the partisan rancor that has ground legislative action to a halt in Washington.
But on DACA, there are signs of hope on both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Paul Ryan called on Congress to act on 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.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who represents Lawrence, struck a similar note. “These children did not come to America on their own terms, they simply followed their parents,” Jenkins said. “In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with my colleagues to create a permanent solution through the legislative process.”
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Have introduced a bipartisan bill that would grant permanent legal status to those who arrived in the United States before they turned 18, passed security checks and met other criteria.
President Trump has shown that he has neither the patience for nor interest in legislative leadership. He is quick to dump issues like DACA in Congress’ lap without direction, criticize leaders from both parties for inaction and blame Congress for the resulting failure.
But there may be a method to Trump’s madness. As the president’s tactics deepen the divide between Congress and the administration, they push congressional leaders closer to working together.
Trump has thrown down the gauntlet, daring Congress to work together and pass significant bipartisan legislation. Immigration reform, in which geography and economics often matter more than party, offers just such an opportunity.