Thereâ€™s a good reason comprehensive immigration reform hasnâ€™t seen the light of day for decades.
Itâ€™s not because of partisanship, since both Democrats and Republicans controlled the White House and Congress in that span, but something much more basic: A lack of common sense.
Strident hardliners on both sides want an all-or-nothing approach, from deporting 12 million illegals (impossible) to having totally open borders (also completely unfeasible). Their inability to compromise has killed any effort at meaningful reform.
Add to that the reluctance of party leaders to change the status quo, since they gain tremendous political benefit from nonaction. Special-interest groups, from big business to labor unions, line their pockets to keep things just the way they are, to the detriment of the country â€" and illegal immigrants.
But now that we finally had an opportunity to do something positive â€" keeping the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program until a suitable replacement was passed by Congress â€" the Trump administration instead decided to end it entirely, phasing it out over six months. The result has been an uproar, since the lives of 800,000 productive young people â€" who had legal residency and legitimate employment â€" have been thrown into chaos.
Letâ€™s look at the controversy surrounding the DACA â€œDreamers.â€
First, a quick background: DACA, instituted by the President Obama in 2012, deferred immigration action on children brought to America by their illegal immigrant parents. It did not grant legal status, but instead protected those who qualified from being deported. It also provided work permits for two years, which were renewable. Eligibility criteria included being under 16 upon entering the country; living continuously in the U.S. since 2007; being enrolled in high school or college (or already having a diploma or degree); have a GED certificate or be an honorably discharged U.S. military veteran; and have no felony criminal convictions.
We could do a lot worse than having productive Dreamers in our midst, living the American Dream.
Now to the issue:
1) The premise for rescinding DACA is that itâ€™s unconstitutional. Trump administration officials stated that Obama made an end-run around Congress by instituting something that shouldâ€™ve been under the purview of the legislative branch. Thatâ€™s very likely true. That said, the president does, in fact, have broad discretionary powers when it comes to immigration. So, given how unpredictable judges can be in interpreting the law â€" with some actively legislating from the bench â€" the jury is still out on DACAâ€™s constitutionality.
2) The â€œitâ€™s not what you say, but how you say itâ€ principle is still lost on Trump. While the White House has rolled out many good policies, most have been inexcusably bumbled due to incompetence and a lack of foresight, and the DACA decision was no different.
Rather than creating panic-inducing uncertainty â€" especially after months of promising â€œbig heartâ€ compassion and telling Dreamers they shouldnâ€™t worry â€" the president should have worked quietly with Congress to formulate a replacement program before his announcement. That way, there wouldâ€™ve already been a plan in place to ensure a smooth, less stressful transition. Doing it backwards was like discontinuing the space shuttle before having a replacement â€" a decision that still haunts America. After seven long months, there are still no grown-ups running the show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
3) Give Obama credit for one thing: He led on the immigration issue when Congress would not. Maybe he overstepped his executive branch bounds, but he did what he thought was right. It certainly wasnâ€™t the first time a president went into uncharted territory. And recent presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, all instituted executive actions protecting segments of undocumented immigrants â€" though, to be fair, none were of the scope of DACA. Perhaps the lesson is if more elected officials did their jobs instead of doing nothing, then presidents would not feel the need to push the limits of their office.
4) Putting constitutional concerns aside, several questions come to mind: Why these people? Why now? And why not focus on the much more pressing immigration issues?
According to reports, 91 percent of Dreamers are employed, and most, if not all, have no criminal record. They are paying taxes and contributing to the economy, while remaining out of the shadowy and dangerous underworld â€" all desirable traits.
But are they taking jobs from Americans, as some claim? Maybe some, but for the most part, that is a fallacy. As much as we donâ€™t want to hear it, fact is that far too many Americans â€" Millennials in particular â€" are highly unmotivated to seek work, let alone maintain a job. For some, anything not paying $125,000 for a 30-hour work week is beneath them. Instead, the overly coddled Entitlement Generation, which expects everything but works for nothing, is content to sip their lattes and eat avocado sandwiches â€" while posting social media sweet nothings every 30 seconds and binge-watching Netflix on their latest-model iPhones.
Sorry, but you canâ€™t take a job away from someone who doesnâ€™t want to work. The market seeks productive people with strong work ethics, and if legal Dreamers fill that bill, then good for them. What could be more capitalistic â€" indeed more American â€" than that?
4) Dreamers should be last on the immigration reform checklist, for two reasons: A) It was not their choice to enter America illegally, and B) The vast majority are productive, law-abiding people who have been in the United States longer than their home country, with many only speaking English. Where is the compassion in throwing them back into unknown lands that are often dangerous Central American hellholes?
The solution is two-fold: First, Trump must work with Congress to pass legislation that effectively continues the DACA program, despite the inevitable howls that will come from his hardcore base.
Second, while remembering that America grants permanent resident status to over one million legal immigrants per year â€" more than all other countries â€" we should enact the following:
â€¢ Build a border wall utilizing nonviolent prisoners and illegal immigrants, which would solve prison overcrowding and save billions. Funding could also be derived from drug seizures and diverted foreign aid to Mexico. The wall would also curtail drug traffickers, human smugglers and terrorists.
â€¢ Institute self-deportation policies by employing stringent law enforcement measures on businesses, and eliminate lavish public benefits, ending much of the free ride enjoyed by illegals.
â€¢ Mandate every business utilize the free E-Verify system. Any company in noncompliance should face stiff penalties and potential criminal prosecution.
â€¢ Illegal immigrants convicted of crimes should serve their time and be deported. And pass a law eliminating U.S. aid to any country refusing its citizens â€" and deport their citizens anyway.
â€¢ Document illegals by issuing long-term or lifetime work visas; permanently deny them citizenship and the right to vote; require them to pass a criminal background check; mandate they pay taxes; and levy fines (deducted directly from paychecks).
Done. Immigration crisis solved with common sense and compassion â€" leaving plenty of time for America to deport Kim Jong-un to another planet.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].