Daniel Ruth: Trump policy throws Dreamers into limbo


Daniel Ruth is a columnist for The Tampa Bay Times.


By Daniel Ruth
The Tampa Bay Times

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

President Donald Trump proclaims he has “great love” for the Dreamers, referring to the roughly 800,000 young people who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals after they were brought to this country illegally by their parents.

Yet Trump announced this week his administration would void DACA and give Congress six months to come up with something else. But what?

Six months? For an institution whose major accomplishments seem to be going on vacation, expecting Congress to resolve what to do with these young people would seem to be a fantasy.

Indeed, DACA was born from congressional inertia. Unable to get Congress to address the immigration status of children who were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that enabled these young people to remain in this country legally. The order allowed these immigrants to work, obtain drivers’ licenses, go to school and pay taxes.

And their status has to be reviewed every two years to ensure the Dreamers are contributing to society.

Of course, this was a disastrous turn of events since it was Obama’s decision.

Trump has been a spinning weather vane on the Dreamers. Years ago, he supported Obama’s executive order. As a presidential candidate, he promised one of his first acts would be to rescind DACA. Days ago, he was in love with the Dreamers. And then there is now.

The president claims he was acting on DACA because 10 states were suing his administration over the legality of Obama’s executive order. As he has so famously offered in the past, Trump could have simply said “see you in court.” Or perhaps something more colorful.

Instead, he caved and claimed he was acting in the name of the sacred rule of law. This from a president who recently pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted by a federal judge of contempt of court.

The president actually had broad bipartisan support to preserve DACA. Even Gov. Rick Scott urged the president not to disrupt the lives of the Dreamers. Rick Scott. And no, that is not a typo.

It’s possible Scott, who is pondering a run for the U.S. Senate, was being a bit disingenuous in his support of DACA to appease Hispanic voters. But, you know, in politics a little disingenuousness in moderation isn’t such a horrible thing.

DACA also has the backing of Republicans like Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and James Lankford of Oklahoma and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

And some 300 business leaders such as the CEOs of AT&T, Best Buy, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all urged Trump to protect the Dreamers. To no avail.

Trump noted those already enrolled in the program will not see their current immigration permits immediately expire. They simply will not be renewed. What then?

What happens to them six months to two years from now?

Where do you deport someone to a country they left as kids?

Immigrants are often taken to task for not assimilating to American culture. But the Dreamers are Americanized. This the only country they’ve ever known. Many of them have served the in the military.

And now with the stroke of a pen, the Dreamers face the risk of becoming stateless.

We have all kinds of fractious partisan political debates on various issues in this country -- taxes, education, foreign policy, the environment.

The Dreamers are a bit different. Yes, DACA involves the unending arguments over immigration. But the fate of 800,000 young people caught in the cross-hairs of conservative/liberal ideology transcends politics and policy.

This is about simple compassion. It is about common decency.

It is about doing the right thing to help people caught in a dilemma they had no role in creating.

Over the next six months and beyond, we are going to be subjected to all manner of political posturing to come up with a solution in search of a problem.

In Washington, six months is a lunch break.

To the Dreamers, it is an eternity of uncertainty.