There has been a lot of sturm und drang about President Trump’s decision to quasi-terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program President Obama created with his magic wand. As usual, immediately after the president announced it, Democrats and establishment types started their “cruel,” “heartless,” “racist,” “bigot,” and “white-supremacist” whining. Because, at this point, this is what Democrats do.
Regardless, none of these hysterical charges are warranted by the president’s actual pronouncement.
Pro Tip for Republican campaign managers preparing their candidate for a debate with a Democrat – limit the person playing the Democrat to simply flinging those insults, plus “sexist,” “alt-right,” “Islamophobe,” and “anti-Semite.” If you do this, your candidate will be more than prepared for the debate.
For those of you too young to remember, the DACA program was the policy implemented by the Obama administration by executive fiat that allows people who entered the country illegally as minors – often called “dreamers” (or DREAMers after the never-enacted DREAM Act) – to receive a renewable two-year stay of deportation and eligibility for a work permit. DACA is also the program that President Obama originally claimed he couldn’t expand to include the parents of these children. At the time he said it was because “I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself,” but then flip-flopped, deciding he could, after all, do this. This latter expansion was struck down by the courts.
President Obama created DACA after Congress repeatedly refused to pass the program in legislative form. Even though our system of government vests the making of law in Congress, and empowers the president to enforce it, President Obama decided that he could just do it on his own. His logic was that as president, he could order the Department of Justice to use its prosecutorial discretion so that no prosecutions of the dreamers ever went forward. It should go without saying that the idea that the president can use his authority over the Justice Department and prosecutorial discretion to essentially implement a law violates the “core constitutional principles: separation of powers and the president’s duty to execute the laws faithfully.” As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy explains, “[t]he president has no authority to confer positive legal benefits — such as work permits — on aliens.”
So, it was good to hear President Trump’s announcement that he would end DACA. But it was not so good to hear that the termination would be phased in, or his tweeted comment that “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” – both of which imply that he is not sure of his decision.
Unfortunately, we should have expected this. Donald Trump is really a moderate Democrat – look at his multiple interviews from the 1990s until around 2010 – who ran as a conservative Republican outsider, and who is now governing as a moderate Republican. So, even on his supposed signature issues, such as his calls for a tough crackdown on illegal immigration, Trump can be credibly accused of having shifted his position for (presumably) political reasons. This, coupled with his strong desire for mainstream media and Democrat praise, means that he cannot be expected to keep to his more conservative positions consistently.
As always, I encourage conservatives to keep the pressure on Donald Trump to make sure that he does the right thing on DACA.