Say what you will of the Trump administration's announced end to DACA -- actually a phase-out, since the system will ramp down over several years and not just "end" in six months as headlines claim* -- it is, at least, a normal kind of posturing between the White House and Congress.
A little history: Federal attempts to resolve the issue of the children of non-citizens raised in this country date back to at least 2001, when the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was introduced in the Senate. There was a lot of back-and-forth in Congress and it has been revised, rewritten, argued over and voted on, but by 2012, was still stalled. The Obama Administration, feeling that urge to Do Something that mars most Presidencies, decided they had some precedent in the occasional Executive use of "prosecutorial discretion"† in allowing refugees from bad weather or worse governments to enter the U.S. without the usual constraints, and established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, essentially doing what the DREAM Act intended without waiting for Congress to pass it. The apparent intent was to buy time and try to chivvy Congress into acting. The latter effort failed.
And there's the rub or at least a point of friction -- temporary humanitarian relief is one thing, permanent programs of this nature are the business of the Legislative branch, not the Executive. This conflict gives both sides wiggle room to argue legality and I have heard a lot of it. Which side is correct? Probably both, or neither: a fairly clear distinction has been made fuzzy.
Pulling the plug on DACA is now being cast as an effort to -- wait for it, wait for it -- chivvy Congress into acting. Possibly the White House needs to keep a mule around as a reminder.
Meanwhile, the DACA protectees are about as demographically assorted as any group of people in their age range living in the U.S. -- a little poorer, a little more likely to be speaking Spanish at home, but you can sort through them and find med-school students from sub-Saharan Africa and hairdressers born in Russia, heroes and nobodies and people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley in roughly the same proportion as in a group of citizens. They're not, aside from their legal status, all that special. Singling them out for deportation as their protection expires is about the same thing as a state changing its firearms laws and seizing the rifles owned by those dutiful gun-owners who registered their "assault weapons" before they were outlawed: the people who followed the rules are the least likely to problematic. On the other hand, if The Law Is The Law in one case, it certainly is in the other and if we're picking and choosing, that'll take some serious explaining.
Congress has at least four bills floating around that would Do Something, if they are so minded. They might. They might not; this entire thing is exactly the sort of can of worms they like to pass around, make impassioned speeches about and hope it goes away. If it does go away, a lot of pretty average folks will be facing serious consequences.
But the Executive and the Legislative branches playing "I dare you" is, at least, the normal sort of thing that goes on in the Federal government, and that aspect of it comes as almost a relief after months of tabloid-worthy drama.
* Vox, of all places, has an article that includes some factual charts and graphs along with tear-jerking photographs. If Congress does nothing, the final group of DACA protections will expire in the Spring of 2021.
† This is more usually invoked when J. Random Badguy kicks down Grandpa's door in the middle of the night, Grandpa beats him half to death with a baseball bat as he is digging through Grandma's jewelry drawer and the prosecutor declines to bring charges against Grandpa. You can't rely on it happening.
4 months ago