Big Tech fumes over Prez Trump's decision to deport a million kids
With DACA dead, all eyes turn to a dysfunctional Congress
Although there is fury directed at President Trump for his decision, the reality is that he was placed between a political rock and a hard place, with Republicans pushing hard on ending the program and the menace of a lawsuit from 10 states Attorneys General threatening to take the issue out of his hands.
Trump made big play about how he would be hard on immigration during the presidential elections, leaving him with little political wiggle room. And he faced in his Attorney General Jeff Sessions an immigration hardliner. Sessions reportedly told the president he would refuse to defend DACA in front of the Supreme Court, putting further pressure on Trump to kill off the program.
In a statement explaining his decision, Trump put the emphasis on the program's legality, arguing that "we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws" and stating that the program was no more than President Obama "making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic."
He went on: "The Attorney General of the United States, the Attorneys General of many states, and virtually all other top legal experts have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court."
Of course, the issue of whether the Supreme Court would have ruled for or against DACA is uncertain. When faced with the question last time, the court deadlocked at 4-4. Since then, Judge Gorsuch has been added to the court and it was very possible he would have ruled in favor of DACA, given a history of sympathy in immigration cases.
What Trump's decision does unfortunately demonstrate is his weakness as a politician. A more gifted politician would have found a way to influence the path that DACA follows. As president, he could have used his power to retain the program until some kind of replacement was in place. He could have used uncertainty over a Supreme Court decision to wrangle concessions from both sides of Congress and cut a deal.
But by deciding to simply end the program, Trump has lost any influence over the process and simply handed it to Congress to resolve. In trying to retain his populist approach, Trump's statement talked a lot about "American workers" and "US taxpayers," but he notably refused to give the announcement personally, leaving it to Attorney General Sessions to formally declare DACA dead.
It is far from clear that Congress will be able to arrive at new legislation before the first Dreamers face deportation in March of next year. Congress repeatedly blocked President Obama's efforts to provide some level of legal certainty to the nearly one million undocumented children – an approach that led to him creating DACA in the first place.
Without a presidential cudgel, the highly dysfunctional and partisan Congress is liable to drive itself into the ground as it has done many times in the past.
Trump's decision will bring the shutters down on any new applications under DACA, but those in the works will move forward and existing visas will be respected. Trump also said he has directed Homeland Security not to place a priority on deporting Dreamers. But the reality is that unless Congress comes up with a legislative solution, the first of 800,000 young adults will become illegal immigrants starting in March and the last will become illegal in two years' time.
With industry already opposed to withdrawing legal status to many of its workers, if the effort to give nearly a million individuals legal certainty fails, there will be significant political blowback.
Despite Trump's efforts to distance himself from the issue, it will be his decision this week to end the program that will be seen as the catalyst. ®