Trump taking the Constitutionalist approach with DACA
Trump taking the Constitutionalist approach with DACA

Democrats are accusing President Trump of heartlessness in wanting to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and suggesting that it is the first step toward deportation.  The major media is more than willing to legitimatize this false narrative in their unrelenting condemnation of the man they cannot accept as President.  This political fear mongering has lead to emotional demonstrations throughout the nation.

In phase two of the DACA controversy, the media narrative has Trump cutting a legislative deal with the congressional Democrats to give the DACA population permanent status.  One newsie reported that Trump is “softening his opposition DACA.”  Actually, Trump has not changed his position at all.

The problem with these political narratives proffered by the politicians and propagandized by the press is that they are not true.  In making and reporting such claims, the press must be under the assumption that no one actually listens to Trump’s statements – so they can report whatever suits their agenda.

To understand what is going on, we should revisit the history of DACA.  President Obama was under pressure to do SOMETHING about those 800,000 to one million (depending on who is counting) young Americans who were brought into this country illegally by their parents.  Speaking as a highly acclaimed constitutional scholar and teacher at the prestigious University of Chicago, Obama repeatedly lamented the fact that the Constitution prevented him from using the Executive Order power to address this issue.  It would be an abuse of power -- having the President usurp the authority of the Congress.  Presidents are not allowed to make laws.

Inexplicably, this constitutional expert one day did a full reversal and decided that he could protect the DACA folks with the presidential pen.  Not only did he ignore his many previous statements, but so did the Congress to a large extent.  As one might expect in such cases, the constitutionalists ran to the courts – a long process that was not yet nearing completion.   It was not likely that a definitive court judgment would be issued before DACA expired in March of 2018.

Oh Yeah!  DACA was not a permanent solution.  In fact, it was a bit of a political dirty trick.  Obama gave only a temporary reprieve.  The shadow of doubt lingered in the distance.  He extended DACA just long enough for him to take the bows and exit stage left.  He left the problem squarely on the desk of his successor, who would have to decide to issue a new and likely unconstitutional Executive Order, let Congress deal with the issue (which had not worked in the past) or just let the DACA people float into the sea of uncertainty from the temporary safe harbor.  The Obama successor also faced the real prospect that the Supreme Court would strike down the DACA Executive Order.

Despite the anti-Trump negative spin, it was quite obvious that the President wanted to find a way to normalize the DACA residents.  In ending DACA ahead of its termination, he spoke of his affection for those who found themselves in immigration limbo.  He expressed his own assurance that Congress would rise to the occasion and normalize the DACA status by legislation – lawfully and constitutionally.

Unlike Obama, Trump did not take the pressure off of a reluctant Congress.  He quadrupled it.  Once Trump made the announcement – and before it was twisted beyond all recognition by the press – it was apparent that Congress would have to act and would have to normalize the status of the DACA people.  Because of the division on this issue within the Republican Party, it was equally obvious that it would be done in a bipartisan manner.

Trump did not end DACA because he did not want to protect the status of those involved, but because he wanted to bring about a permanent legal and constitutional solution.   So, why did he end the program rather than just seek legislation?  Trump understood that Congress would not act until DACA was terminated.  It is the nature of the national legislature to act only at the last minute.  

Contrary to the reports, Trump did not end DACA, but promised to end it – giving Congress sufficient time to take up and resolve the issue.  Had he just allowed the time to run out, the program would have ended and Congress would have no time to pass corrective legislation.  Those 800,000 DACA people would be at risk – even though the risk is rather minimal that any sort of mass deportation would take place.

Rather than demonstrating against Trump, the DACA folks should be singing his praises.  By next spring, it is more than likely that legislation will be passed to normalize the status of DACA immigrants – and Trump will have achieved a great political victory by restoring a bit of the separation of powers that was blurred in the past.

Tied to the DACA debate is the larger question of border security and THE WALL.  That is best left for a later commentary.

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com. 

 


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