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For Better or Worse, Biden Doubles Down on DACA

Will the president’s dream of amnesty for illegals prove a nightmare in November?

President Joe Biden announced two new executive actions this week to grant relief to illegal immigrants. During a celebration of the 12th anniversary of DACA on Tuesday, June 18, Biden unveiled his plans to grant visas to so-called Dreamers and permanent residency to undocumented spouses of citizens. The president has promised precisely this kind of support since his first campaign against Donald Trump, but at just shy of five months prior to their rematch, the timing is suspect. Then there’s public opinion; several years of booming illegal immigration and all that comes with it hasn’t exactly inspired people to desire amnesty.

A Dozen Years of DACA

DACA – or, more formally, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – began 12 years ago as a presidential memo from the desk of Barack Obama. Donald Trump targeted DACA throughout his presidency, as did various organizations and officials from Republican-led states, but the memo-turned-government program survived. The Biden administration then took steps to “re-establish” it on stronger legal footing in 2022, using a more formal rulemaking process to introduce his “final rule” on DACA in the Federal Register.

Under the new program announced this week, certain DACA recipients will have a streamlined path to citizenship. Illegals who have been married to citizens for at least ten years and the children of US citizens can apply for lawful permanent residence without having to leave the country. To be eligible, however, they also will have had to be in the country illegally for at least ten years as of June 17, 2024. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that up to 500,000 spouses could be eligible, along with as many as 50,000 children of these spouses. The other program provides employment-based visas for DACA recipients who have graduated from college and have high-skilled job offers from US employers in their field.

But for all of Biden’s promises to the Dreamers and other “undocumented” folks, he really hasn’t done much – one action ahead of the 2022 midterms and another just months before the 2024 presidential election certainly don’t seem like a dedicated advocacy to anything other than driving votes. To be fair, though, the program’s fate hangs in the balance. Two judges have already ruled that creating DACA went beyond the authority of a president’s executive order, and the case now awaits a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to concur with the lower court rulings. In any case, it’s likely the US Supreme Court will have the final say in the matter, probably in the next year or two.

Still, the timing of Biden’s actions did not go unnoticed, even by immigration advocates. Erik Cruz Morales, for example, who serves as policy and advocacy manager for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, expressed his skepticism. “It’s a frustrating process for many of us,” he said. “It’s very uncertain what the future holds.” Morales calls the president’s announcement “a great step in the right direction,” but he also said, “I think it’s political reasons that he’s doing this now, when he could have been doing this at the beginning of his term.”

Panacea or Poison?

Politicians saving up all their campaign promises until re-election time is far from a new phenomenon, of course. In some ways, they can’t even be blamed for it. Electoral history has shown that what happens in the last few months leading up to an election can have a far greater effect on the outcome than the rest of the term combined. This time, however, it might not just be a case of too little too late, but of going in the wrong direction entirely.

The latest poll from Rasmussen Reports finds that, if given a choice between a candidate who favors granting amnesty to illegal aliens and another who prefers deporting all illegals, more than half of likely voters would side with the one who would deport. Of the 1,072 respondents, 52% said they preferred deportation compared to 36% who opted for amnesty. Of course, the partisan breakdown shows more Republicans (75%) favor the deportation candidate than amnesty (18%), and 56% of Democrats prefer amnesty to 34% who support deportation. But look at the discrepancy in the spread. Barely half of Democrats prefer amnesty and about a third prefer deportation. Yet nearly all Republicans side with the deportation candidate.

Even the racial breakdown looks bleak for amnesty. Fifty-seven percent of whites, 44% of blacks, 45% of Hispanics, and 40% of other minorities said they would vote for the candidate that would deport illegals. President Biden’s strongest supporters are in favor of amnesty, which is good news for the president’s new program, with 82% at least somewhat supporting it. The bad news for Biden, however, is how few people that really is. In the last dozen polls collected by RealClear Politics, Biden’s approval rating ranges from as low as 36% to only as high as 45%, with the RCP average sitting at 40.5%. Going even father back, one sees it has been worse, but not really any better; he hasn’t seen 50% approval or better since August of 2021.

Smoothing the path for DACA recipients will certainly gain some support from them – even those who see it as a nakedly political move would still appreciate the practical effect on their lives, how ever they feel about the motives. The voting citizenry, on the other hand, must weigh the optics of the administration’s pandering against the practical effects of unchecked illegal immigration these last few years. Biden may dream of DACA saving his presidency, but his push for amnesty could prove a nightmare come November.

Read More From James Fite

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