The Media Are Asking the Wrong Questions in the DACA Debate

Hysteria over what to do with 'dreamers' ignores the impact on three other major stakeholders

In its rush to sensationalize the ongoing debate about what should be done with recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the media have somehow lost the ability to consider the broader issues. DACA is the Obama-era program that unconstitutionally allowed 800,000 illegal aliens — who had allegedly arrived in the United States as children prior to 2012 — to remain here temporarily while receiving work permits and government benefits.

When addressing DACA issues, the sole focus of the 24/7 news machine, and its open-borders allies, has been the question of what is the “fair” solution for this subset of illegal immigrants. This myopic concentration on what’s best for DACA beneficiaries ignores the fact that there are actually multiple sets of stakeholders who will be affected by any decision about how to deal with this controversial program.

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Those sets of stakeholders include legal immigrants in the U.S., immigrants in the queue (who are patiently waiting in their home countries to receive permission to legally immigrate to the U.S.), and U.S. taxpayers. The views of all those groups matter just as much as — if not more than — the desires of the lawbreakers who received DACA benefits. The question the media should be asking is, “What solution best preserves the interests of the law-abiding stakeholders?”

The other three groups of stakeholders will likely have very different takes on the current situation than that of the DACA beneficiaries:

Legal immigrants/new U.S. citizens: There are few groups who display more resentment against illegal immigration than those who waited in line and immigrated to the U.S. lawfully. These stakeholders have played the game by the prescribed rules. They spent thousands of dollars in application fees and legal costs. Many waited decades for their immigration applications to be approved. Now they’re seeing DACA recipients cut to the front of the line and receive a reward for illegal behavior.

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Legal immigrants in waiting: In most cases, these stakeholders are waiting in long lines while their applications wind through an outdated and inefficient immigration system for determining who can come to the U.S. This group consists of more than 4 million individuals who have willingly deferred their American dreams because they are committed to entering the U.S. legally. Rather than being rewarded for obeying the law, they’re being pushed to the back of the line so the U.S. government can give preferential treatment to people who entered the U.S. illegally.

U.S. taxpayers: U.S. citizens have had to sit back quietly and take the illegal, unconstitutional DACA program on the chin. As if the celebration of flagrant disobedience of our immigration laws weren’t enough, the American taxpayer has footed the bill for the free public education received by the DACA recipients — roughly $14,000+ per student. Taxpayers have also absorbed the costs of subsidized medical care, food assistance programs, and discounted college tuition for the DACA cohort.

These are the same American taxpayers who are viciously prosecuted by the Internal Revenue Service when they fail — often inadvertently — to comply with federal tax laws. Yet they find themselves forced to watch the federal government forgive 800,000 people who have benefited from their parents’ willful disobedience of U.S. immigration law — even as law-abiding citizens can’t catch a break.

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When the views of all stakeholders are taken in account, it’s hard to justify anything short of winding down the DACA program over the next few years and allowing beneficiaries to return home. Later, if the U.S. feels that it is necessary to do anything else for a group that has already benefited so significantly from American largesse, Congress could pass special legislation exempting some DACA beneficiaries from the laws that bar illegal aliens from returning to the U.S. But a blanket amnesty — as was proven in 1986 —is bad public policy.

If DACA recipients are as motivated and talented as the media would have us believe, then they should have few problems navigating any new legal processes put in place for their benefit should they decide to return to the U.S. And if they decide to remain in their home countries, then those nations — often beset by poverty and poor leadership — will greatly benefit from this infusion of energy and talent.

That would not only be a victory for the rule of law in the U.S., but also a shot in the arm to struggling democracies abroad.

Dave Ray is director of communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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