Can Trump and Democrats Make a Deal
Can President Donald Trump and the Republican-majority Congress make a deal? That’s a question raised by the announcement that the Trump administration will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months. DACA, put in place by the Obama administration, provided protection from deportation to immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children and who didn’t have serious criminal records and were working or in school or the military.
Trump is on strong legal ground. Barack Obama established DACA in 2012, even though, as he had earlier explained, the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the authority to set policy on immigration and naturalization.
Moreover, Obama’s 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would have given protection to some 4 million parents of legal residents, was ruled invalid by federal courts. Ten state attorneys general have been threatening to challenge DACA on identical grounds.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is thus right when he says that DACA could be overturned by the courts, leaving the 800,000 young people currently covered with no protection. They may be better off with Trump’s order leaving DACA in place for six months than they would be then.
Though DACA is, as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein agreed, “on shaky legal ground,” the political case for the policy is strong. Polls show large majorities in favor because they agree with what Trump said in his written statement: “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents.” This is an instance, arguably a rare one, of Trump’s changing his mind after learning more and reflecting.
The equities weigh heavily in its favor. The 800,000 “dreamers” who came forward and sought DACA status are no more responsible for the dubious legal basis for Obama’s program than they are for their parents’ decision to bring them in the United States illegally. They qualified under the terms of an action of the United States government then in force and have a strong moral case for permanent legal status.
Trump has made clear that he would support a legislative version of DACA, and it could get majority support in both houses of Congress. But because some Republicans, such as Rep. Steve King, are opposed, any bill must be a bipartisan compromise. That means that Democrats will have to make concessions to get the issue on the congressional calendar.
Before the Obama Democrats began passing major legislation on a Democrats-only basis, this was standard operating procedure. It produced major education, Medicare and tax legislation in George W. Bush’s years and NAFTA, welfare reform and children’s health care legislation in Bill Clinton’s.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.