White House Risks Amnesty for Nothing with DACA Gambit
Trump declines to demand agenda priorities be tied to dreamer legislation — leaving lawmakers to call the shots
President Donald Trump ended a controversial amnesty program implemented by former President Barack Obama, but he has a lot of work to do with Congress if he is going to have anything to show for it.
Lawmakers in both parties have pledged to replace the unconstitutional executive action with legislation offering legal status to so-called dreamers, recipients of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, but few have pledged to include any immigration priorities for the White House toward that legislative effort.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has already said any legislative action on a border wall will be pushed off until December.
A pair of senators who were part of the so-called "Gang of Eight" pushed their latest iteration of the DREAM Act to offer amnesty to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) sounded skeptical about adding funding for a border wall to the measure.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ended by Trump Tuesday, was established by executive order in 2012.
Most Republicans agreed Obama overstepped his constitutional power in implementing the program, but many support amnesty for this most-sympathetic collection of illegal immigrants.
These congressional Republicans would be making a mistake to extend amnesty to 800,000 illegal aliens without getting significant reform and border security measures included, say two immigration experts.
One expert worries Trump and the GOP-led Congress will pass a version of DACA while fumbling tax reform and repeal of Obamacare, and that could mean disaster in the 2018 elections.
"[Republicans are] going to go into the elections in 2018 not having repealed Obamacare but having given DACAs an amnesty? I mean, you know — why wasn't [Democratic Rep.]Nancy Pelosi speaker? What's the difference?" said Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, speaking Tuesday on "The Laura Ingraham Show."
Another expert advised now is no time to be shy: Trump should go big.
"Trump should ask for it all," said Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. "There's a lot of support among the American people, even if Graham doesn't support it."
Von Spakovsky also warned of the problems associated with passing any version of amnesty. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and Congress passed landmark legislation on immigration, and it included amnesty.
But the bill was soon abused and it did little for enforcement. In the years that followed, the number of illegal immigrants quadrupled, according to Ed Meese, Reagan's former attorney general.
"That should teach Congress a very important lesson: Amnesty 'bends' the rule of law." Meese wrote for The Heritage Foundation in 2013. "And bending the rule of law to reach a 'comprehensive' deal winds up provoking wholesale breaking of the law. Ultimately, it encourages millions more to risk entering the country illegally in the hope that one day they, too, might receive amnesty."
Such encouragement came in 2014, after President Obama wrote his executive order. Thousands upon thousands of children began pouring in from south of the border. Many of the children were without adult companions, and had been sent to the United States in hopes they would qualify for DACA, which grants work permits to children brought to the United States by illegal aliens.
The 2014 summer crossings caused a crisis for Obama that summer, and the president resettled many of the children and families without telling the public where.
Trump is taking a big risk now, asking Congress to again pass immigration reform without insisting on a wall or better border security. And von Spakovsky told LifeZette on Tuesday after Sessions' announcement that Congress still has a tall order, as the details are sure to cause intense debate on Capitol Hill.
One of those issues is sure to be who will get amnesty. Von Spakovsky believes the age range — up to 16 years of age — is too high, and that teens who speak Spanish and grew up in Mexico or Central America will not suffer hardship if they are sent home.
Later in the day, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will push for certain things.
"Certainly to control the border, to improve vetting and immigration security, enforce our laws, and do things that protect American workers," she said at the Tuesday press briefing.