Af­ter Trump acts, DACA is now Congress’ prob­lem

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - Byron York The Washington Ex­am­iner

Arkansas Repub­li­can Sen. Tom Cot­ton, who af­ter the de­par­ture of Jeff Ses­sions has emerged as the Se­nate’s lead­ing im­mi­gra­tion hawk, says he would sup­port the le­gal­iza­tion of all cur­rent DACA re­cip­i­ents -- nearly 700,000 of them -- if Congress would at the same time pass mea­sures to pro­tect Amer­i­cans work­ers from the ef­fects of that le­gal­iza­tion.

DACA, which stands for De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals, was cre­ated by Pres­i­dent Obama’s uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion to shield from de­por­ta­tion and grant work per­mits to peo­ple who were brought il­le­gally to the United States as chil­dren. On Tues­day, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions an­nounced that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­scind­ing DACA, ef­fec­tive six months from now. That leaves it up to Congress to de­cide the next step for the na­tion’s so-called Dream­ers.

“We ought to take care of them,” Cot­ton said in a re­cent tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion, not­ing that DACA re­cip­i­ents ar­rived in this coun­try il­le­gally, “through no fault of their own.”

“In any leg­isla­tive fix, I would like to see them re­ceive a green card,” Cot­ton said. At the same time, he con­tin­ued, “We ought to rec­og­nize that giv­ing them le­gal sta­tus has two prob­lems. First, it cre­ates a whole new class of peo­ple who will then be el­i­gi­ble for a green card and cit­i­zen­ship -- namely, the ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers of those who will re­ceive le­gal sta­tus who can, through chain mi­gra­tion, get le­gal sta­tus them­selves.”

“Sec­ond,” Cot­ton said, “it will en­cour­age more il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.”

The first prob­lem can be fixed by pass­ing the RAISE Act, Cot­ton said -- the bill Cot­ton has spon­sored with fel­low GOP Sen. David Per­due that would strictly limit chain mi­gra­tion as well as re­bal­ance cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy in fa­vor of skilled im­mi­grants.

The sec­ond prob­lem could be ad­dressed by ex­tend­ing E-ver­ify across the coun­try, which Cot­ton called “the best way to re­duce more il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.”

Cot­ton has con­ferred with Pres­i­dent Trump and with White House staff on best way to move be­yond DACA. Cot­ton said the pres­i­dent’s in­stincts are that DACA, im­posed by Obama with no ac­tion from Congress in what many Repub­li­cans felt was an un­con­sti­tu­tional over­reach, would not have been de­fen­si­ble in court.

Ses­sions said the same Tues­day when he noted, “If we were to keep the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive amnesty pol­icy, the like­li­est out­come is that it would be en­joined (by a court).”

That was im­por­tant be­cause the at­tor­neys gen­eral of sev­eral states threat­ened to sue the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion if the pres­i­dent did not do away with DACA. Trump’s ac­tion, an­nounced by Ses­sions, makes any such law­suits be­side the point. And now, it throws the ball straight into Congress’ court. What will it do about those 700,000 soonto-be-for­mer DACA re­cip­i­ents?

That is where the ne­go­ti­at­ing comes in.

Will Se­nate Democrats, not to men­tion Repub­li­cans who fa­vored the Gang of Eight com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill, ac­tu­ally vote for the RAISE Act -- which some have al­ready said they op­pose -- in ex­change for le­gal sta­tus for Dream­ers? It’s not at all clear. Would they agree to ex­tend­ing E-ver­ify? Also un­clear.

So far, most of the Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who have spo­ken out about DACA are sup­port­ers of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form -- Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, Thom Til­lis, and Jeff Flake, as well as Reps. Mike Coff­man and Car­los Curbello. And, of course, Speaker Paul Ryan, who has called on the pres­i­dent not to end DACA, even though Ryan once de­scribed the pro­gram as “bla­tantly un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

But the vast ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have not been heard from. Most are united in their belief that Pres­i­dent Obama over­stepped his author­ity by in­sti­tut­ing DACA. They be­lieve the ac­tion would not sur­vive court scru­tiny. They be­lieve they have to do some­thing to ac­com­mo­date cur­rent DACA re­cip­i­ents while not mak­ing the over­all im­mi­gra­tion prob­lem worse. And af­ter Trump’s ac­tion, it seems un­likely they would re­vive and cod­ify the pro­gram with­out also en­act­ing some sig­nif­i­cant re­form of the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

DACA, Cot­ton said, is “a mess of Pres­i­dent Obama’s mak­ing.” But now it’s up to Repub­li­cans to clean up that mess. “We should find a way to give (DACA re­cip­i­ents) le­gal sta­tus,” Cot­ton con­cluded, “but we also have to mit­i­gate the in­evitable con­se­quences of that ac­tion.”

Byron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Washington Ex­am­iner.

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