Now that President Donald Trump has threatened to cruelly upend the lives of 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, it’s up to Congress to make sure their dreams to stay in this country become reality.
We say that Trump has threatened to overturn the program known as DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — because his administration’s edict on the issue is far from clear. Though he seems bent on reversing any worthwhile policy set by his predecessor, Barack Obama, backlash to the original pronouncement may prove to be a roadblock.
It isn’t even clear how invested in the change Trump actually is because he left the public announcement to Attorney General Jeff Sessions instead of making it himself. The initial assertion that Obama had overreached his authority by putting the program into place was tempered by the fact that the administration set a six-month window for the program to wind down.
Then, the president introduced more uncertainty. Apparently, Trump spoke with Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democrats, who urged him to provide reassurance that those threatened with deportation if DACA is scuttled really have no cause for concern.
Pelosi must have been persuasive, because Trump quickly took to Twitter to proclaim: “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!”
That tweet followed an earlier one that seemed to undercut Sessions’ announcement by saying:
“Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”
In other words, Congress can ease the worries of undocumented youth by legalizing DACA, and even if it fails to do so, the president will take another look at the whole issue.
The response to the administration’s mixed message was intriguing. Even typically staunch allies of the president voiced concern.
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt said: “The young people in the DACA program need a permanent, common-sense solution that will allow them to continue working and going to school in the only country that many of them have ever known.”
And Republican Gov. Eric Greitens urged Congress to show compassion, especially for immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and then served in the military.
Given the uncertain alliances in Washington, no one should be reassured that the so-called Dreamers have a clear path to being able to remain in the United States. But given Trump’s pivot on the issue, the urgency appears to have been reduced.
Now, Congress has to come up with a program to keep the dreams alive. With tax reform, health care, hurricane relief, debt ceilings, North Korea and all of the other issues facing Washington, making the legalization of DACA part of a comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy doesn’t seem likely.
But in these divisive times, when every issue is highly politicized and neither major party can seem to accomplish anything that requires consensus, it’s heartening that Trump worked with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on a three-month extension of the debt ceiling — a deal that took Republicans by surprise.
Perhaps the president is realizing that to get his stalled agenda moving, he will have to tone down rhetoric and use his reputation as a dealmaker to work with Democrats as well as Republicans.
To rebuild Houston, Florida and other hurricane-ravaged sites, the nation is going to need all of the help it can get. The $15.3 billion-dollar package that moved quickly through Congress is only part of the job; now, lawmakers must make sure that personnel who can actually do the hard work on the ground will be available, and that pool is likely to include undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children.
Ejecting them from the country would be unfair to them and a step backward for the nation. Trump’s professed love for the DACA-protected immigrants needs to be formalized in legislation that is fair and just.
And while no one expects an extended era of good feeling or choruses of “Kumbaya” to be echoing from Washington, both parties should take advantage of an unexpected resurgence of bipartisanship and help young people who have grown up as loyal and responsible Americans, not use them as political pawns.