Home / NEWS / Republican States Are Demanding That the White House Stop Protecting Dreamers

Republican States Are Demanding That the White House Stop Protecting Dreamers

Late last month, the Republican attorneys general from ten states (along
with a governor) issued a threat to the Trump Administration. Unless
the President dismantled an Obama-era program called Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which established “lawful presence” for
undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, they would
file a federal lawsuit against the program and attempt to dismantle it
themselves. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing
their intentions, the officials touted their credentials as “the state
plaintiffs that successfully challenged the Obama Administration.” They
were referring to their success in convincing a federal court, in 2014,
to block an expanded version of DACA aimed at protecting the parents of
DACA recipients. At the time, challenging DACA itself—a broadly popular
program designed for young people who grew up as Americans—was
politically risky, even in deep-red states. But with a new
Administration in the White House, these officials are emboldened.

Earlier this week, John Kelly, the Secretary of the Department of
Homeland Security, met with twenty members of the Congressional Hispanic
Caucus in Washington. What was said in the room became bigger news in
immigrant communities across the country than the latest revelations of
the Trump campaign’s contact with Russians. Kelly told the lawmakers
that D.H.S. lawyers didn’t think DACA would withstand a legal challenge,
and that, if the state officials made good on their promise to sue, the
Administration might not defend DACA in court. Still, Kelly said, he had
discretion as the head of D.H.S. to determine whom immigration agents
should prioritize for deportation; DACA recipients, he said, “fall into
the category of people who should stay in the U.S.” Just a few weeks
earlier, Kelly had announced that the Administration planned to leave
DACA intact. Now, the lawmakers worried that the Administration was
trying to have it both ways: Trump could continue to claim to have a
“big heart” for DACA recipients, and thus avoid a difficult political
fight, while allowing the policy to be challenged and blocked in court,
which would please his base. So did the Administration want to protect
DACA or not? “We couldn’t get a straight answer,” Representative Joaquin
Castro, a Texas Democrat who attended the meeting, told me.

There are nearly a million DACA recipients in the United States. Beneficiaries of
the program can, among other things, acquire work permits and driver’s
licenses. They are not granted full legal status, but they can lead more
normal lives—getting loans, attending college—in plain view of federal
immigration authorities. Congress never approved the program, however.
It was created under an executive order signed by President Obama. When
the expanded version of DACA was challenged in court, in 2014, judges
took issue with the idea that the President could put in place such a
policy unilaterally. The case went to the Supreme Court last year, where
the Justices deadlocked, 4–4, at a time when there was an empty seat on
the court. As a result, lower-court rulings that blocked the expansion
remained in place—and they rested on legal reasoning that endangered the
existence of DACA itself.

The state officials now threatening DACA are from states that have
embraced anti-immigration policies in recent years: Texas, Alabama,
Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Nebraska,
and West Virginia. “Anti-immigrant activists feel there’s momentum,”
Kamal Essaheb, the policy director of the National Immigration Law
Center, told me. “They feel the election was won because of their issue.
They feel they’re owed something.” The advocacy groups who promote
anti-immigrant policies, for their part, often try to sound
non-ideological when it comes to DACA. “This program was improper under
the Obama administration, and it’s still improper,” Jessica Vaughan, who
works at the Center for Immigration Studies, an influential
anti-immigration think tank, recently
told the Washington Post. “Congress is the branch of our government that
has the authority to decide who gets to stay in this country as a legal
immigrant, not the president.” Yet these same groups also applaud
President Trump for signing executive orders to round up and deport more

In 2014, twenty-six states sued Obama to block the DACA expansion; so
far, only ten are threatening to attack DACA, but ten is plenty. “These
guys are willing to call the new Administration’s bluff,” Felicia
Escobar, who worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House, told
me. “They seem to have made the calculation that this actually helps
them with their local politics.” Leading the charge is Ken Paxton, the
Attorney General of Texas. As Lawrence Wright
wrote recently in the magazine, Texas has become a testing ground for
conservative policies in the Trump era. In May, after taking cues from
the Trump Administration’s rhetoric about “sanctuary” cities, Texas’s
governor, Greg Abbott, signed into law one of the most
anti-immigrant bills in the country.

The core arguments against DACA rely on the notion that undocumented
immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans while also benefitting
from taxpayer-funded resources. This isn’t the case—for one thing,
undocumented immigrants do pay taxes—but the argument has a ready
populist appeal. “If you talk to the average person in South Carolina,
they don’t know even what DACA is,” Diana Pliego, a DACA recipient who
grew up in the state, told me recently. “They don’t know what you can’t
have because you’re undocumented. The politicians thrive on the fact
that their constituency is so unaware of the issues, and they take
advantage by spinning their own narratives. These are students that
South Carolina raised—you’ve invested in them already. All of a sudden
you want to take them out of the workforce?”

Original Source


Check Also

Eye Opener: Steve Bannon moves on after White House ousting – Videos

August 19, 2017, 7:01 AM| Another staff shake-up in the Trump administration with the White …

Bannon Out In Latest White House Shake-Up, And Trump Is Increasingly Isolated : NPR

President Trump speaks on the phone in January with Russian President Vladimir Putin, joined by …