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Jordan Candler / August 1, 2017

Congress Must Act Regardless of Trump’s DACA Decision

The U.S. needs both Rule of Law and discretion when it comes to immigration. There is a way to bridge the divide.

One of Barack Obama’s biggest abuses of power was the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The purpose of this subterfuge was to circumvent Congress by facilitating an executive-style form of amnesty for young immigrants whose parents brought them across the border. Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to shelve DACA. But in June, the administration’s stance turned rather ambiguous. So in an effort to ensure its elimination, a group of red states are now preparing legal action against DACA.

According to The Daily Signal, “A lawsuit by states seeking to end protected status for children whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally could spare President Donald Trump from personally halting the Obama administration program. Or, immigration experts say, such litigation could force Democrats in Congress to bargain on stricter enforcement of immigration law. Last month, 10 state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, wrote U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for the Trump administration to end … DACA.”

There are two trains of thought here. One is that illegal immigration is just that — illegal, plain and simple, no questions asked. Therefore there shouldn’t be any compromise when it comes to enforcing Rule of Law. Which brings us to the second train of thought — a conviction that minors shouldn’t be subjected to political theater, particularly because they were brought into America by their parents through no design of their own. The truth is that there is a way to bridge these views. Rule of Law advocates are correct in that Obama overstepped his authority, and for that reason DACA should be eliminated. But that doesn’t mean leniency shouldn’t be part of the equation.

Conservative commentator Star Parker put it best in a February column, where she wrote, “The immigration issue is about law and law is about defining the lines you don’t cross. Whether it is the physical line that defines the borders of our nation or the legal lines that protect the life, liberty and property of citizens. Those who came here illegally of their own volition have violated both and this cannot be tolerated. President Trump said, ‘A nation without borders is not a nation.’ I would add to this that a nation without law is not a nation. You need both. Those whose arrived as minors, because their parents violated the law, do, I believe, deserve special consideration.”

In other words, the premise of DACA isn’t malicious. The way in which it was carried out is. Any form of amnesty should be done legislatively, not through the executive branch. So while the states are justified in seeking to end DACA from a purely constitutional perspective, let’s hope they understand also that discretion is sorely needed for young immigrants who had no choice in their breaking immigration law. Congress should ensure the distinction is carried out lawfully.

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