President Donald Trump may be onto something.
During a meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday at the White House, Trump endorsed a two-step approach to immigration reform. First, address Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children.
Then, Trump said, Congress should try (again) to resolve the thornier issues of border security, updating policies for legal immigration and what to do about the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
That would be a humane and logical path forward.
Democrats and many Republicans, including the president himself, profess their desire to shield Dreamers from deportation. The clock is ticking.
In September, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave six months’ notice of the Trump administration’s intention to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama administration program that granted work permits to Dreamers if they met certain requirements, including clean criminal records.
Without congressional action, the program will end March 5.
A federal court ruling, also issued Tuesday, benefits people already enrolled in the program, but it doesn’t change the expiration date.
Trump has produced a steady stream of mixed messages on DACA, beginning with his campaign promise to “immediately” terminate the program. Recently, however, he has positioned himself as cheerleader-in-chief for Dreamers, as in this Sept. 14 tweet: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!”
But until now, Trump’s support has been contingent on Congress appropriating money to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and other changes to immigration law that are opposed by most congressional Democrats.
Some Republicans in Tuesday’s meeting, an extraordinary televised bargain session, clearly believed that Trump misstated his own position when, in answer to a question from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, he offered to sign a “clean” DACA extension while Congress worked out other aspects of immigration reform in separate legislation.
We hope he meant it. It’s time to stop using Dreamers as bargaining chips.
Only the most rigid opponent of immigration could fail to see that these young people, an estimated 800,000, were brought to this country through no fault of their own. They were children, brought here by their parents, and many of them have no connection to, or memory of, their native land.
The United States needs secure borders, and immigrants who commit violent crimes should be subject to deportation. But there is no crisis. The Border Patrol’s final numbers for 2017, released this week, show a 40 percent drop in apprehensions compared with 2016, continuing a steady decline that started in 2004.
And even California’s controversial new sanctuary law requires that undocumented immigrants convicted of serious and violent felonies be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.
Congress has deadlocked on immigration reform for years, and it’s split over Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, GOP proposals to end the so-called chain migration, which gives priority to family members of immigrants, and Democrats’ support for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S.
But large majorities of Americans, including Democrats and Republicans, want Dreamers to stay. They shouldn’t be held hostage — or become collateral damage — in partisan battles over tangential issues.