BY MARIO H. LOPEZ, CONTRIBUTOR
President-elect Donald Trump campaigned strongly against illegal immigration, but it is the fate of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that is one of his most anticipated early decisions.
DACA, a 2012 executive order, temporarily stayed the deportation of Dreamers — the undocumented immigrants who were unwittingly brought to the United States by their parents as minors — if they met certain criteria. To qualify for this deferred action, these individuals had to be free of any felony convictions or significant misdemeanors and enrolled in school, have graduated from high school or enlisted in the military.
While there were serious issues with the way Obama chose to execute and establish DACA — issues that Obama himself raised many times prior to disregarding his own position and choosing to overstep his constitutional authority — there are some very worthy points that Trump should take into consideration.
First and foremost, Trump should focus on the immigration issues Americans care about.
Indeed, these are the big-picture issues that he campaigned most strongly on: a secure border and assurances that undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes or pose threats to the safety and security of Americans are not allowed to stay in the country.
DACA beneficiaries are not threats to America, nor do they weaken our border security. They have been vetted and screened for potential criminal activity. As a country, we need to focus on the real problem areas of our broken immigration system. Repealing DACA, simply put, will not improve safety or security.
In fact, recent research found that DACA recipients have started their own businesses at twice the rate of the general American population and 46 percent of DACA recipients are currently in school. Of those, 83 percent are concurrently working and earning their education, and 70 percent are pursuing bachelor’s degrees or higher.
DACA recipients are largely educated, productive and beneficial to the American economy.
On the flip side, deporting all DACA recipients would be extraordinarily costly. Setting aside the enormous costs of mass deportation itself — estimated by the politically conservative American Action Forum to be $420 billion — a back-of-the-napkin calculation regarding the deportation of Dreamers yields a $29 billion price tag and dramatically shrinks American economic output.
It would be counterproductive to force the deportation of these productive immigrants. By focusing on DACA rather than border security and violent crime, and relying solely on the executive branch rather than working with Congress, then Trump would set back the cause of meaningful immigration reform and a constitutional approach to lawmaking — the latter of which was a consistent and broad theme on the campaign trial that resonated strongly among Trump’s electorate.
Trump has indicated support in the past for certain groups of undocumented immigrants whose only crime is violating immigration law. In 2012, he remarked that “you have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive; now we’re supposed to send them out of the country. I don’t believe in that.”
He carried this theme again both in his post-election interview with “60 Minutes,” and in in his recent interview with Time magazine, where he recognized the reality of what’s at stake for Dreamers and hinted at a possible common-sense solution: “We’re going to work something out. On a humanitarian basis, it’s a very tough situation,” he said.
Trump would be wise to work with Republicans in Congress to repeal and replace DACA with an initiative that focuses on removing bad actors from the country and allows intelligent, industrious and law-abiding immigrants to stay. By negotiating a deal with Congress that secures the border and constructively addresses the future flow of workers and DACA recipients, Trump would be putting his much-celebrated dealmaking skills to work.
Hammering out an agreement on the provisions broadly supported by the American public, such as truly securing the border and removing violent criminals from the country, will be a boost during the critical early days of the Trump presidency. Simply rescinding DACA without accompanying constructive solutions will be unnecessarily divisive or wholly uninspiring to those who voted for Trump with the understanding that he would reject business as usual in Washington.
Conservatives have spent eight years railing against Obama’s practice of circumventing Congress and governing via executive fiat. Trump would do himself a service by rejecting that inclination, and instead treating Congress as a co-equal branch of the federal government that should be more recognized as such.
A great place for Trump to start working with Congress is delivering on his promises to increase border security and facilitate removal of those who have committed serious crimes, while ensuring that our young, educated and productive immigrants continue to contribute to our country.
Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an advocacy organization that promotes liberty, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.
Source: THE HILL