By Prem Calvin Prashad
After the Trump administration decided to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and kicked the onus on a fix to Congress, the program beneficiaries, better known as “Dreamers,” have lived in limbo, facing deportation to countries they last set foot in as children.
The bipartisan consensus is that deporting “Dreamers” would be a humanitarian and policy failure and an embarrassment to the country. Yet a solution seems farther than ever. The events of the past few months have made it clear that Congress must act on its own and if necessary, bypass the White House.
The status of DACA has wound through the courts for months, eventually making it to the Supreme Court. On Monday, the court declined a request from the Trump administration to authorize the immediate termination of the program (which would open recipients to deportation).
This is particularly concerning as DACA program members have volunteered their information to the government and passed a rigorous application process. Reneging on the promises made by the program would greatly undermine the credibility of the government.
The administration is required by court order to maintain elements of the program, including a stay of deportation and the right to continue to renew their status.
Congress, meanwhile, has failed to reach a reasonable consensus on immigration reform. After a brief government shutdown over the issue, subsequent proposals have attempted to trade protections for Dreamers with various elements of the president’s nationalist agenda, including funding for the border wall and changing the immigration rules to ensure that immigrants are not allowed to sponsor family members.
Of course, both proposals struck Democrats (and many moderate Republicans) as petty and in bad faith. Family reunification (or family ties) has always played a strong role in immigration, and most Americans can relate their family history to a chain of relatives of neighbors that settled in the United States.
A solution is not likely while the administration is determined to use young, undocumented people as bargaining chips in order to push immigration policy to the far right of American values.
The wall is an expensive and unnecessary barrier that is unlikely to impact the number of undocumented immigrants, many of whom now enter legally and overstay visas.
The major takeaway, however, should be that the administration is not interested in a solution. They have consistently delayed, derailed and undermined bipartisan solutions that did not sufficiently conform to the president’s agenda.
With a stated preference for “European” immigrants, it’s clear that for the Trump administration, any level of immigration is undesirable.
The time has come for Congress to bypass the president and create a deal of their own – one that can pass and be sustained with 60 votes.
The deal, at a minimum level, needs to solve the issue of “Dreamers” for good, with a path to citizenship. The TPS debacle, where displaced people who have lived in the United States for two decades now face deportation, demonstrates the peril of temporary solutions that extend indefinitely, making the consequences for deportation increasingly severe with each passing year.
This is what is happening now while DACA bounces from court to court.
The “diversity lottery,” a random visa lottery that increases European immigration, is a favorite target of conservatives, who largely don’t realize it benefits the administration’s favorite immigrants.
It can be done away with. Professional visas, used by tech and engineering companies for recruiting can be reviewed – the enhanced interconnectivity of the world has made international teams more viable.
Though reducing these visas makes this country less able to compete for talent and fill in professional gaps in the workforce, it could be a concession made to protect immigrants already living in the United States.
The only way the bipartisan consensus on immigration can succeed is if it is negotiated in good faith. Ending “family reunification” punishes legal immigrants and does so for no discernible reason aside from bias against immigrants.
The administration’s proposals are designed to punish legal and illegal immigrants alike. They should be ignored. Revamping the immigration system without the support of the Executive Office is unprecedented – but it is also not impossible.