Politics & Policy

Mr. President, End DACA

(Reuters photo: Yuri Gripas)

Recent reports suggest that President Trump is torn about what to do about DACA, the de facto amnesty for so-called DREAMers instituted by Barack Obama. We understand the hesitation, since many of the beneficiaries of this amnesty have sympathetic stories, but as a matter of fidelity to our constitutional system and his campaign promises, Trump must end DACA. If we are going to amnesty an entire class of people, it should obviously be done through the democratic process and, in our view, happen only in exchange for reforms to the immigration system.

DACA contravenes the elementary principle that the legislative branch ought to pass laws and the executive branch ought to enforce them. In 2012, after Congress rejected the DREAM Act, President Obama issued the policy by unilateral decree. Under DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — illegal immigrants under the age of 37 can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for deferred status. And while the Obama administration pretended the policy would be implemented via “prosecutorial discretion,” with each case considered individually, in practice, USCIS officials say, any illegal immigrant who appears eligible is granted deferred status — which comes with benefits such as a work permit, a Social Security number, and a driver’s license. More than 750,000 illegal immigrants currently enjoy this functional amnesty.

Candidate Trump made ending DACA a priority, but since being elected, the president has not followed through. The politics is tricky. It is difficult to roll back this de facto amnesty after it has already been implemented. And some of the DREAMers did indeed come here at a young age and have effectively known no other country (this isn’t true of all DACA beneficiaries — the Obama policy was so sweeping that it can apply to illegal immigrants who came here as teenagers). But the most important consideration is that DACA is flagrantly unconstitutional.

The administration should at the very least stop issuing new permits under DACA and announce a date when it will stop processing renewals. Then, the nation’s legislative body can consider legislation to deal with this population. A reasonable deal would be a carefully circumscribed version of the DREAM Act in exchange for a requirement for the nationwide use of E-Verify for new hires or some significant part of the RAISE Act, a bill recently proposed by Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and David Perdue (R., Ga.). E-Verify would force businesses to confirm the legal status of their employees, preventing them from hiring illegal labor. The Cotton-Perdue plan would lower the level of legal immigration and put a greater emphasis on skills in legal immigration.

The most important consideration is that DACA is flagrantly unconstitutional.

Any such deal would advance the goal of a more rational immigration policy that properly takes account of the interests of American workers. But, as a practical matter, Republicans won’t have any leverage unless President Trump acts on DACA. Maybe Democrats are so radicalized on immigration and so convinced that they can wait Trump out that they wouldn’t deal on DACA. If so, that can’t be helped. The president owes it to his voters and, much more important, to the constitutional system, to end DACA.

Editor’s Note: This editorial originally stated that illegal immigrants under the age of 36 can apply for deferred status.


The Logic of a DACA Deal

Time to End DACA

Trump’s Dumb Dance on Immigration

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular


In Defense of the Electoral College

Senator Elizabeth Warren has joined a growing chorus within the Democratic party in calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Speaking at a forum in Mississippi on Monday night, Warren said that she hoped to ensure that “every vote matters” and proposed that “the way we can make that happen is ... Read More

Stick a Fork in O’Rourke

If, as I wrote last week here, Joe Biden may save the Democratic party from a horrible debacle at the polls next year, Beto O’Rourke may be doing the whole process a good turn now. Biden, despite his efforts to masquerade as the vanguard of what is now called progressivism, is politically sane and, if ... Read More
National Security & Defense

In Defense of the Iraq War

Today is the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and Twitter is alive with condemnations of the conflict -- countered by precious few defenses. Yet I believed the Iraq War was just and proper in 2003, and I still believe that today. When Donald Trump condemned the war during the 2015 primary campaign and ... Read More

Beto-mania and Our Cult of Personality Politics

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s biggest fans and supporters insist he is a forward-thinking, future-oriented visionary, but no contender for the Democratic nomination feels more familiar than the former three-term congressman from El Paso. That’s because he has the highest combined score in both déjà vu ... Read More