Remember the date. On Sept. 5, 2017, America betrayed itself, turning with a cold heart on the helpless and innocent. With President Trump’s decision to rescind the DACA program, America became something other than what it proclaims.
Or, at least, America’s government did. To read the polls and sense the reaction of the American people, we remain open, concerned for the weak and opposed to rank, heartless cruelty. And, make no mistake, that’s what the repeal of the Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program is. For no discernible public purpose, Trump has decided to embark on a path that would tear families apart, hurt the economy and consign hundreds of thousands of productive residents to an unknown and potentially dangerous future.
The DACA program was aimed at protecting residents who were brought here as children and are, through no fault of their own, undocumented. The program, initiated by former President Barack Obama, required those individuals to identify themselves, to have no serious criminal background and to have lived continuously in this country since June 15, 2007. They had to pay an application fee of $485.
In exchange, the “dreamers,” as they are called, could get driver’s licenses and work permits. In some places, they could qualify for in-state college tuition. Now, the government knows who these hundreds of thousands are, where they live and where their families live. And America has turned on them.
Defenders of this cruelty insist it’s necessary as a matter of constitutional purity and defending the requirements of law and order. Neither excuse holds water.
Nothing compelled Trump to do this now, other than a need to fulfill a reckless campaign promise. He could allow the Supreme Court to decide on DACA’s constitutionality.
As to law and order, it was Trump who just pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a law enforcement leader who broke the law he had sworn to enforce.
There are two solutions to this problem, one immediate and the other longer term. With Trump dumping this matter into Congress’ lap, members need to act quickly to protect these innocents. It’s the right thing to do – and the American thing to do. As such, it should be passed as stand-alone legislation: a ringing declaration of humanity untethered to other matters.
Since there is no telling if Trump would sign or veto such legislation, it needs to be passed by veto-proof majorities. Congress can, and should, do this quickly. To drag its feet is to leave nearly 800,000 good, productive people in a terrifying limbo.
Over the longer term, Congress needs to come to grips with immigration reform. That may be immediately impossible, given the current makeup of the government, but it’s necessary not only to protect the dreamers, but to ensure the country has a durable and fair immigration policy that balances the need for border security with compassion for those who came here seeking a better life. This is no impossible task. It requires common sense and heart.
For today, though, what is necessary is for Congress, at the insistence of voters, to remedy Trump’s disgraceful action. We don’t make America great by seeking to hurt people who are already contributing to the country’s greatness.