DACA debacle could be a good thing, if ...

President Donald Trump has taken his lumps for dumping the fate of “Dreamers” back into the hands of Congress, but revoking the Obama-era government program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) may finally clean up a legitimate problem.

Even Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said recently that DACA is “on shaky legal ground… That’s why we need to pass a law and we should do it.”

The Obama administration created DACA five years ago to give those youngsters who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents a temporary reprieve from deportation.

It was a stop-gap measure Obama implemented when Congress failed to enact a legislative solution, but hardliners criticized it as presidential overreach. Trump and Republicans called it unconstitutional.

On that score, we agree that Obama abused executive power. As inelegantly he handled the rescission, Trump is right to argue that this issue is much more appropriately the province of Congress.

Trump has given Congress six months to pass a law replacing DACA, but didn’t make clear whether he supports legislation reauthorizing the program.

Almost immediately, Colorado’s U.S. senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, co-sponsored a bipartisan bill, the DREAM Act, that would shield Dreamers from deportation and give them a pathway to citizenship.

This wasn’t unexpected from Bennet, who helped write a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013 that passed the Senate but failed to advance in the House. But for Gardner, it’s part of an evolution of his views on immigration. At one time he supported a failed bid to block DACA. Now he’s trying to preserve the protections it offered.

“Children who came to this country without documentation, through no fault of their own, must have the opportunity to remain here lawfully,” Gardner said in a statement announcing his support for the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act would allow immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 18 to qualify for legal residence and, eventually, citizenship if they meet certain conditions. Among them, graduating from high school and having no felony record.

Gardner’s support should help other conservative lawmakers see the benefits of securing bright futures for young immigrants who generally work hard, pay taxes and stay out of trouble.

Whether it’s the DREAM Act or some other piece of legislation that gets the job done, Trump may have done the right thing by forcing Congress to act.

In the end, Congress pulling back power from the executive branch should be considered a positive development.


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Rubin Navarrette’s Thursday column (“DACA lies cloud immigration debate”) provides a timely response to Wednesday’s equivocal Sentinel editorial (“DACA debacle could be a good thing, if . . . “), which – although generally supportive of DACA – gave undue credence to the very “lies” that continue to “cloud” the local “immigration debate”.

Perhaps has a sop to the “conservative” business community upon whose loyalty the Sentinel depends for its advertising revenue, its editors distorted facts and expressed opinions that are unsupported by any credible legal analysis.

First, the Sentinel quoted Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) out of context.  In stating that DACA “is on shaky legal ground”, she was not questioning its constitutionality but rather addressing the practical reality that “conservative” federal judges and our openly partisan Supreme Court (now with the vote of Neil Gorsuch) could decline to uphold it if racist Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department refused to defend it.  “That’s why we need to pass a law and we should do it”.  Republicans (and Trump?) now seem to agree.

Second, while the Sentinel cavalierly “agrees” that President “Obama abused executive powers”, Navarrette aptly notes that Republican legal experts conclude that DACA has been “lawful all along”.  Indeed, the most daunting difference between DACA and how previous Republican Presidents’ exercised that same executive authority is the number of beneficiaries involved – which speaks to the sheer magnitude of the problem Obama was forced to address by Congressional inaction.

Third, Gardner’s “flip flop” on DACA – albeit welcome – betrays his cynical partisan calculation that his’ previous and unprincipled anti-immigrant posture no longer plays as well with the Colorado electorate, particularly when it comes to “Dreamers”. 

Fourth, the Sentinel editorial also conveniently fails to recount that the DREAM Act first passed the House on December 8, 2010, but was filibustered by Senate Republicans.  On May 11, 2011, it was reintroduced in the Senate, but was filibustered again – with four Republican Senators (Cornyn, Kyle, McCain, and Graham) who had earlier supported the bill ignominiously withholding their votes.  In 2013, DACA passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support as part of S.744, but the House never even considered the bill.

Thus, the Sentinel’s editors could do more to lift the “cloud” of local partisan bickering over DACA by expressing fewer half-truths and dubious legal opinions and instead calling Evil by its name.

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