United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that an Obama-era Executive Action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, would be phased out with immediate effect. This is not an instant termination of the disputed program, but the start of a six-month winding down period. The intent, in effect, is to transition this extrajudicial policy to one that is defined by legislation.
As of Tuesday, September 5, no new applications for DACA protection will be accepted by the Citizenship and Immigration Services. Those already accepted into the program and whose legal status is up for renewal by March of 2018 will have until October 5, 2017, to apply for a two-year extension.
DACA DECISION MYTHS DEBUNKED
The underlying implications of Sessions’ announcement should not be misinterpreted for political reasons, but they surely will be: No-one with current legal status under DACA, having committed no other crimes, will be subject to immediate deportation. Pending congressional legislation to the contrary, many of the so-called ‘Dreamers’ already in the program could maintain their legal status in the United States until late 2019 or even early 2020. Not one single individual will, as a result of President Donald Trump’s decision, be abruptly detained and deported. No families will be instantly torn apart. In short, Tuesday, September 5 will not go down in history as the day that the United States became a xenophobic, fascist dictatorship. Reports in the establishment media over the coming days and weeks may, very likely, suggest otherwise.
The DACA program never had legal standing and was an overreach of executive authority by former President Barack Obama. On multiple occasions, Obama himself made this point to those who agitated for rights for illegal immigrants.
With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed…
For this reason, the DACA program was introduced by Executive Action rather than by Executive Order, which could have been quickly overturned by a legal challenge. Trump avoided the trap of nullifying the program with an additional Executive Order, which would only have served to further complicate the issue. Instead, his message – delivered through Sessions’ statement – is that DACA now has an expiration date, but that it is the responsibility of Congress to quickly legislate a permanent solution for the Dreamers. Trump made the point in a Tweet Tuesday morning. As Obama himself stated, DACA was intended to be neither a permanent solution nor a guaranteed path to citizenship.
Now, let’s be clear — this is not amnesty, this is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure
The only DACA recipients who face immediate consequences as a result of Trump’s decision are those who have failed to renew their status or who will fail to renew before October 5. Those whose current DACA protection expires after March 2018 are now at the mercy of Congress but are not affected while their DACA status is still valid. Any minors who have recently been brought illegally to the U.S. and are currently not in the program were not protected by it. Their status, then, is not changed by Trump’s order to end the program.
A PEOPLE OF COMPASSION AND LAW
Announcing the end of DACA at a Department of Justice press briefing, Attorney General Sessions spelled out its unconstitutionality and lack of legal foundation. He went on to point out that the failure to enforce immigration law is neither humane nor compassionate. Refusal to enforce such laws has encouraged a mass-migration of human beings across the harsh and unforgiving terrain of the southern border region; it has stimulated a horrific human-trafficking industry, and it has placed economic burdens upon many communities in the United States to which these illegal immigrants have migrated. The Attorney General also spoke about the crime and potential risk of terrorism facilitated by lax immigration enforcement. “We are people of compassion and we are people of law,” Sessions told the press, “Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers and prevents human suffering.”
The proverbial ball is now firmly in Congress’s court. The legislative branch has until March of 2018 to formulate a lawful, permanent solution for those currently sheltered by the DACA program. How much, if at all, the Republican majority can count on the cooperation of congressional Democrats remains to be seen. Even with Barack Obama in the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress, the Democrats punted on the immigration issue. For the first time in many years, lawmakers have been handed a choice on immigration policy; produce a workable and permanent plan to deal with those who were brought to the U.S. illegally, but not by choice, or face the wrath of the electorate.