The Trump administration’s cruel and cynical assault on “Dreamers” had been telegraphed for days, but Tuesday’s announcement still hit like a thunderclap.
President Donald Trump tried to pretend that he is giving Congress six months to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects nearly 800,000 young people, including as many as 242,000 in California and about 18,000 people qualify for DACA in Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties, according to a report from 2015. More than 1,000 Fresno State students are DACA recipients
But it’s a crap shoot at best that the gridlocked Congress will come up with a bipartisan deal. It was the failure of Congress in the first place that led to Barack Obama creating DACA through executive order in 2012.
Trump also suggested again Tuesday that he is showing “heart and compassion” on this issue. Not even close. Rather, he started a countdown to deportation as soon as next year.
Not only that, but Trump didn’t have the guts to face the cameras himself to make the announcement. Instead, he sent out Attorney General Jeff Sessions to toss red meat to Trump’s base. Sessions called Dreamers “illegal aliens” and repeated the specious argument that they are stealing jobs from native-born citizens.
Business leaders, including Silicon Valley CEOs, know better and support DACA. They know that these young people are going to college, serving in our military, working and paying taxes. “Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy…” says a letter signed by more than 400 CEOs. “They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”
It is shameful that Trump is pandering instead to the extreme wing of the GOP, where white nationalists find aid and comfort. These are people who oppose immigration – legal as well as illegal – because they fear it speeds the day when America is a majority non-white nation.
Dreamers, brought here as children or infants, should not be shipped to countries they have never known. They came out of the shadows to apply for DACA – trusting the federal government with their personal information and passing a criminal background check to get protection from deportation and a work permit for two years.
Under the plan outlined Tuesday, the administration will not accept any new applications, but will allow renewals if the permits expire in the next six months. Those in DACA will see no change before March 5.
Ideally, that deadline will breathe new life into the fair, humane and comprehensive immigration reform we have needed for years. At the very least, compassionate and pro-business Republicans in Congress should shield Dreamers. In the California delegation, Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock and David Valadao of Hanford have staked themselves out. Why aren’t others following their lead?
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield is parroting his party cronies in criticizing President Obama for creating DACA, but he does at least admit, “This is an issue that Congress needs to address.” Let’s see if he has the leadership skills to actually do that in a way that serves his highly Latino constituency.
Unlike Denham and Valadao, Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, is showing no leadership despite his district being 50% Latino – a constituency he will face at the polls next year.
Meanwhile, Democrats supporting DACA, like Jim Costa of Fresno, should not allow Dreamers to be held hostage for the border wall funding that Trump and some Republicans want. That would be beyond despicable.
And closer to home, local and state officials should keep doing what they’re doing – pledging their support for Dreamers and acting to protect them. Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they will go to court.
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon is pushing legislation to establish California as a sanctuary state, strictly limiting communication with federal immigration officials. Though Senate Bill 54 may have its flaws, Trump’s decision gives the bill added impetus.
The president has proven repeatedly that moral clarity and political courage are not part of his character. On immigration, lawmakers in Congress and California must now display it instead.