The Trump administration has officially rescinded President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. Good riddance.
In late 2014, frustrated by congressional inaction and having gotten away with one unlawful amnesty — its 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which effectively shielded more than 2 million young illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. from deportation and provided them work permits — the Obama administration went for broke: DAPA aimed to grant effective amnesty to another 4 million people. Thankfully, the executive order never went into effect, because of a lawsuit by 26 states and an injunction ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court last year. Since then, the lawsuit has been working its way back through the lower courts, this time for litigation on its merits.
About the merits, or lack thereof, there can be little doubt. President Obama’s justifications for his orders were always laughable: There is no Congressional Inaction Clause in the Constitution under which the president can unilaterally enact laws that the Congress won’t, and this was never an act of “prosecutorial discretion”; these were attempts to waive the immigration laws for broad categories of people, and that’s precisely how immigration officials interpreted them.
Alas, the Trump administration’s announcement is hardly unmitigated good news. The reasons for reversing DAPA are also reasons for reversing DACA, but the administration apparently has no plans to end that program, or even to curtail it. The Department of Homeland Security is continuing to grant new work permits to applicants, despite the president’s promise during the campaign that he would “immediately terminate” DACA, since it was in violation of federal law. The president is now, by his own measure, carrying out a lawless program. DHS Secretary Kelly’s refusal to acknowledge that DAPA exceeded the power of the executive branch suddenly makes some sense; doing so would have de facto tied the administration’s hands on DACA.
A lawful, humane approach to the problem of young people brought to the U.S. not of their own volition is possible, though; but it requires an intentional approach to the issue. Candidate Donald Trump was correct that DACA is a lawless remedy. He should wind down that program by withholding new permits and only granting renewals, refusing to implicate himself further in its lawlessness. The Republican Congress, meanwhile, could draft a bill offering DREAMers legal status that can be exchanged for mandatory E-Verify and the RAISE Act — a bill sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and David Perdue (R., Ga.) that among other things would lower legal-immigration levels by reforming our overbroad chain-migration laws. As we have suggested before, this is a situation where both Democrats and Republicans can get something they want.
President Trump proposed a dramatic, much-needed reorientation of the nation’s immigration policy during last year’s election — one that focused on making the country’s immigration process prioritize American interests, and on reversing the Obama administration’s lawlessness. The White House should not lose that focus.