Trump policies baffle immigrant advocates
President Trump has confounded immigrant-rights advocates, who weren’t quite sure how to react last week after his Homeland Security secretary nixed a potential deportation amnesty for 4 million people, but left in place the 2012 amnesty that has allowed nearly 800,000 Dreamers to live and work in the country free of fear of deportation.
While some groups said the administration is sowing fear across immigrant communities, others said that by preserving the 2012 program known in government-speak as DACA, the president has made some muchneeded good news.
It’s the same situation that faced Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Obama, who also was pulled in multiple directions on immigration, with some vociferous advocates saying nothing short of a complete halt to deportations was acceptable, while others sought a compromise that could pass muster with both the courts and Congress.
Now it’s Mr. Trump who’s attempting a Solomon-like solution, preserving the amnesty for Dreamers that Mr. Obama put in place, but revoking the former president’s broader amnesty attempt from 2014.
“After months of senseless and cruel threats, the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to maintain DACA is a huge victory for the 800,000 young people who grew up in this country and have legal permission to live here,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Other advocates were far less kind.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, called the president’s strategy “racist and misguided” and said the administration had “killed any glimpse of hope” for those who might have been granted the 2014 amnesty, known as DAPA.
The Trump administration angered advocates by choosing June 15 to make the decision. That was the date in 2012 when Mr. Obama first announced the DACA program for Dreamers.
“I think they wanted to flavor the day with a little bitterness and spice it up by reminding immigrants they should live in fear,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat.
From the right, meanwhile, some activists have threatened to pull their support from Mr. Trump because he has left the DACA policy in place. They deemed it an unconstitutional power-grab by Mr. Obama, and had hoped Mr. Trump would keep his campaign promise to revoke it.
Federal courts did not look kindly on Mr. Obama’s DAPA policy.
First a federal district judge in Texas ruled the president didn’t follow the law in making such a big policy change. Then an appeals court went further, finding the president’s plans actually broke immigration law. The Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4, leaving the lower courts’ injunction in place.
DAPA applied to parents with children who were already either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The legal theory was that the children would eventually be able to sponsor the parents for legal status, so there was some justification for giving them a status now.
By contrast the Dreamers do not have a blanket pathway to future legal status, making their case perhaps more legally suspect.
However, no court has blocked the DACA policy yet.
The Trump administration is not only keeping DACA in place for those approved under Mr. Obama, but is granting new amnesties as well.
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly earlier this month urged Congress to pass legislation giving Dreamers a more permanent legal status, saying there appears to be a bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill.