On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the administration of President Donald J. Trump, as expected and as promised during his presidential campaign, partially suspended and set an end date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by the Obama administration during the 2012 presidential campaign season (DACA). The program was authorized through administrative action that circumvented long standing congressional legislation and allows certain “undocumented” (the politically correct term for “illegal”) immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The goal was and is laudable but its legality is very questionable, in effect, usurping legislative authority and responsibility. The blame for the plight of those affected, if it can be called that, is not the government’s but of course that of those who illegally introduced the “dreamers, as children, into the country. But while illegality is not always immoral or indefensible, it is always problematic. DACA was a purportedly temporary solution to an obvious problem, a quick fix with immediate political returns, but all it really did was put almost a million young lives in limbo; the Congressional follow up necessary for a real fix, congressional action over half a century overdue, is apparently also residing in limbo, although much more comfortably.
DACA has been under challenge on Constitutional grounds for several years. As reported in the Wikipedia article Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals:
…in December 2014, Texas and 25 other states, all with Republican governors, sued in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas asking the court to enjoin implementation of both the DACA expansion and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans ([DAPA] a similar program) [and in] February 2015, Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued a preliminary injunction blocking the expansion from going into effect while the case, Texas v. United States, proceeds. After progressing through the court system, an equally divided (4-4) Supreme Court left the injunction in place, without setting any precedent.
It seems very likely, given the current composition of the now once more nine member Supreme Court, that Judge Hansen’s decision would now be sustained by the Supreme Court in a manner establishing binding precedent. It is also probable that the Texas v. United States Case will eventually be decided in favor of the plaintiffs and that both DACA and DAPA will be found unconstitutional, absent legislative action rendering the case moot.
As indicated above, the underlying problem involves abdication of Congressional responsibility and now Democratic Party political gamesmanship. As usual, immigrants are merely pawns. That is painfully obvious to any informed, honest observers (few though there are nowadays) given the Obama administration’s record breaking “undocumented” immigrant expulsion history. Especially poignant considering former President Obama’s utter hypocrisy under current circumstances was the posture taken by his administration with respect to applicable United States immigration law when expelling thousands of child refugees from Central America, ironically, earlier in 2014, most of whom had been forced to flee their homelands as a result of the United States supported overthrow of the Democratically elected government of Honduras during 20009, an action spearheaded by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But then again, that was not a presidential election year. Now, however, in the “take no prisoners, win at all costs” campaign to oust the man who bested former Secretary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton–Obama Democrats and their wholly owned mainstream media have contracted convenient amnesia complicated by incurable hypocrisy. Honduras? What is that? That was then, this is now!!
Fairness requires that I disclose my position on United States immigration policy and why.
I am an immigrant. I entered the United States legally more than half a century ago and am a naturalized United States citizens, but not one who suffers from the so called immigrant syndrome, i.e., a psychological need to reject my roots and become more American than anyone, a topic I’ve written about (see, e.g., “Lágrimas y Joyas: Echoes from the Latin Diaspora”). I’m an advocate of virtually open immigration subject to reasonable security related exceptions and a harsh critic of the current immigration system, one characterized during the last half century by ineptitude and xenophobic manipulation. It is not only a betrayal of our immigrant roots and promises but also stupid given our population demographics which require more active participants in our social security and internal revenue systems to support our increasingly aging population.
However, notwithstanding the foregoing realities, what is required now (and has been required for at least half a century) is legal and constitutionally binding integral reform of our immigration laws and institutions, reform responsive to the special risks created by decades of unjustifiable neoconservative international interventionist policies but also responsive to our immigrant roots (with apologies to our indigenous hosts). What is not needed is a patchwork of politically convenient and probably unconstitutional “fixes”. What is not needed is more hypocrisy followed by betrayal and perhaps, in the future, when it’s politically expedient, the destruction of historical monuments immigrants find offensive. What is not needed is more use, then abuse, then forget.
President Trump’s action, unpleasant though it is and unfortunate as it will become is also unfortunately correct. In fact, it’s necessary. It places responsibility for resolution of our immigration and security quandaries where it belongs, with the Congress; admittedly a very inept and politicized Congress, but the solution to Congressional ineptitude lies in the hands of the voters, not through wailing and weeping and cursing and demonstrating and resorting to violence but through responsible voting, by holding elected officials responsible for both their actions and inaction.
By placing a virtual six month limit on Congressional action, the President may finally succeed in goading Congress into responsible bipartisan action in areas other than assuring a profitable military industrial complex and more and more foreign military intervention. Perhaps bipartisan Congressional action can even become a tradition.
The Democratic Party’s fundraising machinery is (as usual) in full force, hysterically bewailing and distorting the situation, much of it of that political party’s making. However, the Democratic Party’s focus should be on getting its legislators to finally do their jobs. The same is true for Republican legislators, especially those joining their Democratic colleagues in shedding rivers of crocodile tears over the President’s purported inhumanity. And as to immigrants, both legal and undocumented, rather than playing into the political gamesmanship of both major parties, we should (indeed, if we really expect results, we must) join in President Trump’s demand for legislative action rather than accepting the mainstream media and Democratic Party’s pleas to punt the problem for resolution after future elections when immigrants can again be added to the list of wedge issues characteristic of Identity Politics, politics which are leading us closer and closer to civil strife. Perpetual limbo is not the answer.
Our immigration situation is complex and dangerous and unfair. Judiciary intervention has, during the past six months, been almost wholly politicized with “judge and forum shopping” become art forms, constitutional traditions be damned, the political publicity being just to juicy to resist regardless of the consequences to the public or to undocumented immigrants. All problems can be patched over by a very, very pliable media. Political power is what it’s all about. Everything else is at best tertiary.
As an immigrant, an American citizen, a civic activist and someone who deeply cares about justice, and equity and the common welfare, I like most of us today despise both major political parties. I despise the hypocritical mainstream media. I despise the civic turmoil in which we find ourselves, paralyzed when so many problems require resolution. But right now we need to kick start all of them into productive action, not to just drink their kool aid (my apologies to kool aid).
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.