by D.J. McGuire
The Trump Administration has used a couple lines of argument in defense of their decision to wind down Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows many children brought into the United States without authorization to remain here and build a life for themselves. The most robust argument Trump and his defenders have is their insistence that Congress via legislation, and not the president via executive order, should have created DACA. However, their other assertion – that DACA beneficiaries have taken jobs that should have gone to native-born American – undermines the Congress-should-act argument by proving it dishonest.
When then-President Obama first set up DACA in 2012, even many who supported the concept were leery of a government program created by administrative fiat without legislative authorization (among them Senator Marco Rubio of Florida – full disclosure, my first choice for president in 2016, back when I was still a Republican). Congressional Republicans in particular eloquently spoke of “executive overreach” – and quite a few still are, in praise of Trump’s action to wind the program down.
It was a very justifiable concern…in 2012. Afterwards, when Republicans in Congress could have used the power of the purse granted in the Constitution to ensure DACA would be reversed, they chose to use it in an attempt to defund and then to delay Obamacare, which failed because they lacked the political will see it through the resulting shutdown. This is not to say that holding their nerve on this matter would have been the right thing to do – from perspective of policy or politics. It is to say that the GOP in Washington had the option of threatening to defund DACA and/or refusing to fund the federal government unless it would be dismantled. They did neither.
More to the point, if Trump and his defenders were only worried about DACA not being enacted in law, the simple solution is to enact a DACA law. Democrats certainly would not have objected – and wouldn’t object now.
They won’t do that because it was never about legislative authority, but rather Trump’s objection to the policy itself. Even as he says all the right things about Congress needing to do its job, and providing a six-month window for same, he sends his press secretary out to insist that Americans of color “could possibly have those jobs” – “those” being the “jobs” of DACA beneficiaries (Washington Post).
One can ask Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA beneficiaries. One can argue that said beneficiaries are taking Americans’ jobs. One cannot honestly do both at once.
Therefore, given Trump’s history, both as candidate and as president, one has to assume that Trump prefers not to have Congress revive DACA in legislation, but rather let DACA expire as part of his nativist agenda. His argument about DACA’s lack of legislative foundation may be his strongest on the issue, but it’s also a dishonest one.
D.J. McGuire is the conservative Democrat on the More Perfect Union podcast – and sometimes feels like he is the lone conservative Democrat in the country.