President Donald Trump is 100 percent correct about one aspect of the program that provided a tenuous legal foothold to immigrant young people: Congress needs to fix it.
Trump is right that DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was never intended to be a permanent solution.
Only Congress can provide that by passing legislation that would address the immigration status of these young people, most of whom were brought to the United States when they were young children. Their precarious position is not of their own making.
Former President Barack Obama signed the executive order establishing this program in 2012 as a last-ditch effort after Congress repeatedly failed to pass legislation, despite years of lawmakers voicing support for these so-called “Dreamers.”
Trump, of course, didn’t have the courage to own his decision to end DACA. Instead, he tasked Attorney General Jeff Sessions with announcing the program’s demise on Tuesday.
Somehow, Trump managed to both pass the buck — tweeting at Congress to “get ready to do your job” — and pander to his base while remaining safely out of sight. The president’s decision was cruel, but he has given Congress a window to right his wrong.
Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri has quoted from the Bible, pointing to the theological view that children should never be punished for the acts of their parents. Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri noted that Dreamers have been “in legal limbo for too long,” saying that Congress has a “responsibility” find a solution. He also gave a nod to the need for improved border security.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas took a similar stand on the border, but called for a “commonsense and compassionate plan” that would be a permanent solution for these young people.
Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas stipulated that he does not support deporting “Dreamers,” but he also called for widespread reforms to immigration laws. “Otherwise we will be left with a piecemeal mess, which is what we have on our hands today.”
The fact that many of the Republicans tied their support for DACA legislation to increased border security or a much broader immigration overhaul provides a preview of the challenges that likely will bedevil Congress in its search for a bipartisan solution.
But Trump opened the door to Congress, and lawmakers, however belatedly, need to do right by these young people.
The Missouri and Kansas delegations, who represent thousands of Dreamers, should lead on this issue instead of sitting on the sidelines and allowing the livelihoods of these young adults to be compromised.
Our senators’ and representatives’ carefully crafted statements sounding supportive notes about DACA must be backed up with actual action and a route to legal status for Dreamers.
Congress can’t afford to repeat the same dead-end immigration debate that has played out time and again in recent years. Dreamers’ futures hang in the balance, and they now have an expiration date.