In 2017, Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — the Obama administration program that granted a reprieve from deportation to many Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. At the time, the president issued a challenge on Twitter: “Congress, get ready to do your job.”
The House did just that on Tuesday, passing the American Dream and Promise Act, a politically doomed but praiseworthy bill that would grant a path to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Dreamers.
The bill, which was approved by every Democratic member of the House, along with seven Republicans, also would extend permanent legal status to nearly 1.6 million people who came to the United States as children but are not enrolled in DACA. Recipients of Temporary Protected Status, a special designation for immigrants from nations ravaged by natural disasters or other humanitarian crises, and a smaller category of immigrants from Liberia, would also be granted permanent legal status.
It’s a shame that the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to approve the bill.
Allowing Dreamers to remain in the United States without fear and without strings attached would be the moral thing to do. It also would be good politics. Voters have long viewed Dreamers favourably — after all, many of these young adults are central to their communities, attending school, paying taxes, having children who are American citizens and owning businesses.
President Barack Obama implemented DACA as an executive order and intended it to be a “temporary stopgap measure” as part of broader immigration reform, which he was unable to enact during his eight years in office. Since then, conservatives’ chief complaint about the program has been that it was a power grab intended to circumvent Congress. Jeff Sessions was among those critics. Sessions, first as an Alabama senator and later as attorney general, incorrectly described DACA as executive “amnesty” for unauthorised migrants. Yet even Sessions recognised that only Congress could solve what Obama had attempted to patch together with executive action.
Republicans in the Senate may lack the courage or the conviction to check Trump’s cruelty. If lawmakers truly believe Obama overstepped the law by trying to achieve immigration reform through executive orders, they ought to embrace the House’s Dreamer bill and send it to the president to sign.
© 2019 New York Times News Service