Politics that Matter: DACA is not enough

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Andrew Schillaci

I question whether college students understand what is going on when they read a Facebook headline and head out for a march.

President Trump’s ultimatum on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, gives Congress six months to come up with a legislative solution to decide the fate of 800,000 “Dreamers.” Waving around signs such as, “I stand with all dreamers #DEFENDDACA” suggests the protesters are on the Dreamers’ side, while Trump is not.

It’s easy to look at this and feel helpful. But if college students want to have an informed opinion on the matter, they need to understand the legislative efforts leading up to DACA and the temporary nature of the policy.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, advocates have tried to give amnesty to children whose parents entered the U.S. illegally. The bill, known as the Dream Act, failed during both the Bush and Obama administrations as a stand-alone bill and a comprehensive immigration legislation.

Before DACA was Sen. Dick Durbin’s Dream, which in 2007 won the support of a majority of senators but lost to a bipartisan filibuster including eight Democrats from states hit hardest by immigration, like Arizona and California. In 2013, a broader immigration package passed the Senate with a majority of votes but failed in the House.

After years of failure, President Obama signed DACA as a temporary order in hope that Congress would reconsider the Dream Act and broader immigration changes. In other words, DACA was never meant to be a long-term solution.

By nature of the law, Dreamers are only able to reside legally in the United States for two years at a time, after which they must renew their status. There is no true path to citizenship.

DACA was a grand idea of amnesty, but is really just a two-year cycle of uncertainty.

President Trump’s ultimatum is a bipartisan measure and a calculated political move, despite his reputation for the opposite. A group of Republicans, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, believe the way Obama enacted DACA was unconstitutional because he acted unilaterally — not getting the support of Congress first. Rodgers does insist that Congress “must protect” the dreamers, however, indicating a willingness to work alongside Democrats on the issue.

Another group of hard-line Republicans see Trump’s action as a push for amnesty. Rep. Steve King tweeted that delaying an end to DACA for the sake of amnesty is “Republican suicide.”

The majority of Democrats are united for that same amnesty with the exception of states that voted against a 2007 version DACA or abstained entirely: Arizona, North Dakota, California and Missouri.

By delaying the bill for six months, Trump has effectively placed all pressure on Congress for failing to take any meaningful legislative actions since the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s supporters see his ultimatum as a tough stance on a do-nothing Congress, contrasting Obama’s administration as weak, ineffective and embarrassing.

If Congress does not pass anything to replace DACA, hard line Republicans will win. This scenario is the most probable because of the unlikely expectation that Congress will correct 16 years of missed opportunity in six months.

If Congress does act, the opposite will happen — Trump will be seen as a hero, passing amnesty legislation in six months after 16 years of gridlock. To pass the bill, Republicans and Democrats would have to work together, allowing many opportunities to request funding for security measures like a border wall as part of the deal.

Trump has more to lose without an amnesty deal. Even if we are not affected by DACA, we have friends, classmates and family members who depend on this program. The majority of “Dreamers” are honest, hard-working people who contribute to the American economy, complicating an amnesty deal even further.

Now it’s up to Congress to deliver.

Andrew Schillaci, ’17, ’18G, is a columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at ajs317@lehigh.edu.

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