Dream On!

“DEFERRED, adj.: put off; postponed; delayed; withheld for or until a stated time”  — definition consolidated from Merriam-Webster and American Heritage

Before we look at this week’s topic, perhaps we should clarify a few terms….

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): a program implemented via President Obama’s Dept. of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012, which granted temporary legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors; sometimes referred to disparagingly as Obama’s “executive amnesty”

DACA supporters at rally

As summarized by The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, “It applied to aliens who illegally entered the U.S. before the age of 16, were under the age of 31, had “continuously” resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and were in school, graduated, or honorably discharged from the military. DACA provided a period of deferred action (a promise that the alien would not be deported) as well as access to certain government benefits. Illegal aliens were considered eligible even if they had been convicted of two misdemeanor crimes…. The period of deferred action was initially for two years, but that period was extended to three years by a second Homeland Security memorandum on Nov. 14, 2014.”

Fortunately, a similar program for parents of the childhood arrivals — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) — failed in 2014.

Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act: proposed legislation to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children; a version of the bill passed the House in Dec. 2010 but not the Senate

“Dreamers/DREAMers”: current DACA beneficiaries and other undocumented immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act

On Sept. 5, 2017, President Trump (via A.G. Jeff Sessions) announced the beginning of a 6-month phase-out, or winding down, of DACA, a program which constitutionality has been suspect from its start. This caused much consternation among the 800,000 DACA enrollees, their families, liberals in general, and a few right-leaning moderates. In fact, Trump himself is not unsympathetic to their plight, but he is trying to force Congress to get on the ball and legislate on the matter, since it’s really their responsibility.

Of course, the president’s meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and his apparent willingness to work with Democrats has many Republicans and conservatives concerned, as well. To make things worse, there have been unclear and conflicting reports from both Pelosi and the White House as to what exactly has been agreed to so far. (Will there be a DREAM Act that creates a path to citizenship for “Dreamers”? What about border security? Will Trump still build “the Wall”?) For example, Pelosi said:

“We insisted that the bipartisan DREAM Act would be the basis for that protection and that we would review border security measures that didn’t include building a wall.”

But, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded with a tweet that “DACA and border security were discussed,” but “excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.” Trump and Pelosi both independently confirmed, “We’re not looking at amnesty.” But, while Trump insists he is talking about DACA (which is good, because it doesn’t imply acceptance of the failed DREAM Act), Pelosi uses DREAM(er) language and has even seemingly attempted to conflate the two.

Then, last week (9/25/2017), Republican Senators introduced the SUCCEED Act, a “conservative alternative” to the DREAM Act. Proposed by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the bill proposes three rounds of extensive background checks that look for disqualifying gang and/or other criminal activity and requires beneficiaries to “either maintain a job, serve in the military or earn a post-secondary or vocational degree to keep their legal status as adults.” Such would then qualify for a naturalized citizenship, once they have 15 years of legal status behind them, including a minimum five years as a green card holder.

“[This] is not a standalone bill and would require companion legislation, particularly around border security.”  — Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)

A few House Freedom Caucus members

Meanwhile, back in the House, the Freedom Caucus is ready to play hardball. Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Tom Garrett (R-VA) warn of repeating the mistakes of the Reagan-era Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986), an amnesty bill which encouraged more illegal immigration and grew the 2-3 million illegals at the time into the 10-20 million we now have. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) fears that DACA legislation could allow for “chain migration”, bringing the extended families of current DACA beneficiaries over regardless of merit. These and other caucus members raise the necessity of tough border security measures, and they will not even consider voting for any DACA-based legislation unless and until these and related concerns are adequately addressed.

“Build the wall, secure that border, internal enforcement, and then eliminate the incentives people have to enter this country illegally.”  — Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

So, while the President has been pushing for a codification of DACA into law, these conservative lawmakers are going to be very hard to sell on it, as well they should.

Speaker Paul Ryan is also on record saying that a standalone DREAM Act without any immigration enforcement provisions attached (as “demanded” by Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats) is not an option.

“[I]t’s just reasonable and natural that we should address the root cause of this problem, lack of control of our borders, and get border security, interior enforcement, the things that you need to do to secure your borders so that you don’t have a DACA problem 10 years from now. So we want to address the cause and the effect, the symptom and the root cause of the problem…. [T]here is a compromise to be had here, and that’s what this compromise looks like, in my mind.”

For the past couple months or so, Townhall/Fox’s Guy Benson has been touting his suggestion to reintroduce parts of the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill that “passed a Democratic Senate handily, but died in the GOP-held House in 2013”.

“[This would] identify immigration enforcement proposals that have already gotten unanimous stamps of approval from Senate Democrats. Among them are the hiring of thousands of new border agents, the construction of 700 miles of new fencing, and upgrading the e-verify system for hiring new employees.

The idea, therefore, would be pretty straightforward: Law-abiding DREAMers’ non-deportable status would be formalized and stabilized, while Americans concerned about border and internal immigration enforcement would see tangible progress on the security front. I argued that would be a fair deal, and would be broadly popular.”

Guy Benson

He then lays out reasons based on polling numbers for why a majority of Americans would support these measures, and he makes good points. I’d like to see more, of course, including an actual, “big, beautiful” wall and not just fencing. But, it’s an acceptable minimum, fallback position, and it would still be a win-win-win-win (for Dems, Reps, Trump, and American citizens).

What encourages me in this whole thing is that, not only are Republicans and the President taking this whole issue seriously, but (as Benson puts it) “some key Democrats [are] signaling that they might be open to a compromise.” Just how much compromise remains to be seen, of course. But — and this is the hard part –, as long as Trump and the Republicans in Congress agree and hold firm to certain conservative essentials and negotiate shrewdly (which the GOP, unfortunately, do not have a strong history of doing), then we may get at least a half-way decent agreement. Plus, as long as Republicans continue to hold majorities in Congress and the White House, they might be able to strengthen or add additional measures later.

We really need to get control of our borders, while also implementing a program for dealing with those currently living here illegally that combines compassion, wisdom, and justice. The sooner we can get down to business, the better.

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