Immigration

What's Going on With Dreamers?

Many voters considered Trump's promise to end DACA to be key. But he's been slow to uphold that particular promise.

Brian Mark Weber · Jun. 16, 2017

One of the cornerstones of Donald Trump’s campaign was stopping illegal immigration. And even though his election victory came four years after Barack Obama unilaterally implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, many voters still considered the promise to end DACA to be a key part of their support of Trump.

The key aspect of DACA that inspired such robust opposition was not so much that it benefited children of illegal immigrants, but that Obama unilaterally implemented the program without the approval of Congress. Many considered the move an unconstitutional abuse of executive power — including Obama himself, until he decided to do it anyway.

Obama’s willingness to ignore Congress and the will of the American people regarding amnesty was a major factor in Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton.

In fact, a recent poll by the Voter Study Group indicates that a significant number of Obama voters who switched to Trump did so over concerns about illegal immigration.

Fast-forward six months into Trump’s presidency, and while general enforcement is up and border crossings are down, little has changed on DACA. The president’s supporters are deeply concerned over the continuation of DACA, and his seemingly nonchalant attitude toward addressing the problem. Let’s take a look at the numbers, which show that Trump has basically carried over DACA into his administration.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “has approved 107,524 DACA renewals and 17,275 new applications,” notes Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. “Of the 90 days in the January to March period, 70 of them have been on Trump’s watch, or about 78 percent. Assuming a constant rate of processing, that would mean Donald Trump has given access to work permits, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, EITC, and more to 13,436 illegal aliens who had not already been amnestied by Obama. That’s an average of 192 new illegals a day granted amnesty by Donald Trump.”

Trump’s loyal supporters fully understand that much of the inaction coming from the White House is tied to Democrats in Congress who are doing everything they can to keep Trump from succeeding. The narratives of collusion with Russia and now obstruction of justice are using up the administration’s time and energy, and congressional Republicans have shown little cohesive willingness to do much amidst the chaos.

But DACA is a clear exception, mainly because it’s just about the easiest campaign promise for Trump to keep. Since the program was enacted via Obama’s executive power alone, Trump doesn’t need to wait on Congress or anyone else. He can simply end DACA with one signature. This is causing great angst among the very people who cast their vote to stop rewarding illegal immigrants, be they adults or children.

Making matters more complicated for the president is that DACA is fairly popular, and ending it with fanfare contains significant political risks for an administration already taking on water from relentless attacks by the media. But there’s another reason why Trump isn’t acting quickly to end DACA: he has expressed sympathy for the children, largely the result of conversations he had with Latino evangelical leaders back in December.

This doesn’t mean that Trump has abandoned his resolve to control illegal immigration, but he may need to be more artful in order to appease both sides of the issue. Some low-key methods of ending the program could be initiated through the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, or even state and local governments. These moves would happen over time, saving the president from announcing a single, sweeping measure that might draw criticism from even those in his own party. And do we really think the leftist courts would let Trump get away with it?

Back in February, the president said, “You have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly — they were brought in here in such a way. It’s a very, very tough subject.” Apparently, it’s such a tough decision that for now at least, President Trump appears more likely to let DACA roll on than to bring about its demise. Facing pressure from Latino advisors, Catholic college presidents, and members of both political parties, he appears to have moved away from his campaign promise to end DACA.

All is not lost for those who want Trump to stay tough on illegal immigration, though. He has pushed for tougher enforcement and increased border security, And DHS announced just Thursday that the Deferred Action for Parents of Americas program has been canceled. That program had been blocked by the courts anyway, but Trump has formally ended it.

Still, for now it looks like the Dreamers have nothing to worry about. Politically, this may not be a bad approach for President Trump. Of all the areas of illegal immigration, Americans are hardly adamant about deporting the children of illegals. At the same time, Trump cannot forget the voters who sent him to Washington to tackle the problem. They don’t expect Trump to fix everything overnight, but the president must at least reassure those supporters who would be more open to accepting DACA if illegal immigration as a whole were addressed in a perceptible and measurable way.

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