The world in 2017 is too populous, complex and dangerous a place to simply admit anyone who claims to share our ideals. There are rules to be followed.
President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program is not about cruelty. It’s not about sending the “best and brightest” back to countries where they have no ties of family, culture, or language. It’s not about damaging the economy.
The end of DACA — which will be done as an orderly, six-month phase-out — is about respecting the rule of law and forcing Congress to do its job.
In 2012, President Obama, frustrated by Congress’ failure to adequately address the fate of millions of illegal aliens, issued an executive order creating DACA. The program encouraged those with no legal claim to be in the United States to come out of the shadows and apply for a work permit and a two-year (renewable) period during which they could not be deported.
Many, including myself, warned then that DACA was a bad idea. By circumventing Congress, Obama was giving hope to millions, but without conferring any of the rights citizens enjoy. By encouraging illegals to come forward, the government was gaining key information that could come back to haunt those very people should there be a change in policy.
Related Sina-cism: The real line on immigration, and how Obama crossed it
Some say that haunting has now begun.
Well, while I can’t deny how illegal aliens [undocumented immigrants] and their supporters may feel about their prospects, I can say that not all ghosts are real, and even the Trump administration is unlikely to deport hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers whose only crime is having violated U.S. borders at a young age and under circumstances beyond their control.
[Editor’s note: Worcester Sun preferred style, following the Associated Press handbook, is to use the term undocumented immigrants. Chris Sinacola is an independently contracted columnist. His views are his own.]
Yet, had Obama not issued his executive order and instead worked with Congress to reform immigration, today’s illegal aliens would not be having any nightmares. And foolish posturing, such as “A Joint Statement in Support of DACA,” issued by 15 Massachusetts community college presidents, would be less prevalent.
“In many respects,” the college presidents declare, “our country has grown to its present strength due to the past influx of immigrants seeking the American dream. That dream is grounded in our country’s belief that all are endowed with three basic rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness …”
Well, almost right.
A century and more ago, U.S. immigration policy — with some notorious exceptions by which Chinese, Asians and other minorities were excluded — was one of open borders. Immigration continues, but the world in 2017 is too populous, complex and dangerous a place to simply admit anyone who claims to share our ideals. There are rules to be followed.
The college presidents’ echoing the Declaration of Independence’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is clever, but misleading. The Founders certainly believed the institutions of American democracy are grounded in universal principles, but the world today does not universally respect our values or institutions. We get to choose who enters and the terms by which those here illegally may (or may not) remain. That is how it should be.
It is surely true that many of those here illegally love our nation and have been helped by DACA. A November 2016 study in the Journal of Public Economics, for example, suggests DACA has helped move 75,000 people into the workforce. But what of that?
The millions more workers who hold green cards or H-1B visas have a much greater impact. If all DACA workers were suddenly deported, the effect on the U.S. economy would be negligible. Are some among “the best and brightest” minds in our nation? Sure, but only in the same proportion as can be found in the general population.
However much we may feel for anyone caught in the politics of DACA, the key issue is not their moral character or intent, or what becomes of them — it is finding a long-term solution to our immigration questions. Trump has rightly put immigration back with the legislative branch.
Unfortunately, when people such as community college presidents put politics ahead of the law, they exacerbate political divisions, creating excuses for Congress’ continued inaction.
There can be no excuses. However long it takes, Congress must act. And those who refuse to do so should be voted out in favor of those who will act.
My hope is that lawmakers will shun both wholesale deportations and blanket amnesty in favor of a middle course that offers an increasingly larger piece of the American dream to those willing to work, obey our laws and embrace American cultural and civic life. And that DACA comes to be seen for what it was, a short detour on the road to a permanent and just solution to immigration questions.
Chris Sinacola is a Worcester Sun columnist. His observations on politics, current events, history and more appear every Sunday.