Immigration reform has increasingly become a hot button issue for US politicians due to a growing number of Hispanic voters. Accordingly, President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind protections created by the Obama Administration for so-called Dreamers, i.e. immigrants whose parents illegally brought them into the US as children, has hit the political world like a category five hurricane. Proponents of the policy reversal see the decision as a step forward in the effort to undo the executive overreach of the Obama Administration. As expected, the vast majority of reactions from individuals across the political spectrum and business world have been emotional, but the outrage shared by critics is more than just an emotional response.
For most, the idea that children are to punished for the sins of their parents is unjust. In many respects, Trump’s decision was an issue of right versus legal. Instead of taking a moral position and relying on the Courts to decide the legality of Obama’s policy, Trump obviously focused on the legality of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) then made a judgment. As the head of the Executive Branch, the President is supposed to execute the Law, not write or judge it. This means he was likely just trying to do his job, even though the Executive Branch does seem to actually have the authority to adopt DACA. It also means government can and must work to craft a solution before the US government does a great injustice against young victims of a broken immigration system.
The problem with issues like illegal immigration is that Congress has too often failed to both confront these issues and write explicit policy solutions. Congress tends to write legislation so broadly that it transfers Congressional authority to the President. Absent a clear policy prescription for growing issues, the President is forced to act in order to prevent problems from getting worse. Not only has Congress continually failed to adequately address the issue of illegal immigration, the broken immigration system has created an expanding number of tertiary issues. Raised, educated, and cultured in the US, Dreamers became all-American residents without the Constitutional guarantees of a citizen or the right to live in their homeland.
What makes most US citizens US citizens is that they happened to be born in the US and/or to parents happened to be US citizens. If a law was somehow created placing requirements on US citizenship for Americans born citizens, many Americans would suddenly find themselves without a country. All former-US citizens would be made ineligible for work and eligible for deportation. The 800, 000 Dreamers affected by the Trump policy reversal face this reality once again. Having been raised in the United States, many of these Dreamers literally cannot function outside of the US, which is their homeland. Removing their ability to work and collect social welfare benefits means pushing them into destitution. Deporting Dreamers means stranding them in a foreign land.
For the sake of common decency, as well as human rights, a just solution needs to be adopted. Some critics oppose DACA, because it is amnesty. Amnesty may create perverse incentives, which can encourage parents to break the law to ensure the future of their children, but amnesty should always be the Law for the innocent. Those perverse incentives should be addressed with comprehensive immigration reform and other policy changes. Trump wants Congress to act and Congress wants to place the blame on Trump. Some want comprehensive reform. Some also want to tie action to disaster relief aid and the Debt Ceiling. These are all things that make a solution less likely while muddying the water, so blame can be deflected. If policymakers want to solve the imminent threat to Dreamers, they can and will pass a clean bill reinstating DACA.
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