President Trump’s Genius Handling of DACA

President Trump’s Genius Handling of DACA

Image Source: Reyes, Public Domain

Image Source: Reyes, Public Domain

Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor

Opinion -- President Trump has been fulfilling his biggest campaign promises in the realm of illegal immigration. From increased funding for border security and the border wall all being approved as part of his budget, to the approaching passage of both Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (which both passed the House with bipartisan support), and the continued plummeting of illegal immigrant crossings over the southern border (now down by 70% since Trump took office, the lowest in 17 years), it is clear that his tough talk on the campaign trail has translated into an equal level of tough action in office.

However, there was one key area in which the President was slammed by his more far-right critics for not acting as swiftly. Although he repealed the controversial DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) amnesty program, he ultimately did not repeal its corresponding program DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which grants amnesty to those who came to the United States illegally as children. As both were enacted via executive order under Barack Obama, both could just as easily be repealed by President Trump’s executive power; but while he did just that with DAPA, he left DACA untouched for unknown reasons.

While the more passionate and radical in his base criticized this move as a sign of him caving to the influence of the establishment or some of his more left-wing advisors (including his own daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner), it is now clear that there is an entirely different motive and overall plan at work here.

It has now become obvious that President Trump has always intended to see DACA eliminated; it is the manner in which he executed this move that is quite different from what most may have been expecting, even though it appears ready to achieve the same outcome.

The reason this fact has come to light? Homeland Secretary John Kelly’s closed-door meeting with Democratic lawmakers earlier this week signaled that the policy may very well meet its demise not through a legislative or executive action, but a judicial one. In the meeting, General Kelly informed the lawmakers that, as ten states prepare to sue the federal government and challenge DACA’s constitutionality (just as they also planned to do with DAPA), Trump’s Department of Justice will not defend the law in court. This all but guarantees that DACA will be defeated in the courts and be overturned judicially rather than executively. The lawsuit will move forward in early September if DACA is not fully rescinded by then.

So then the question remains: Why this extended process for eliminating DACA rather than a few strokes of the executive pen? The answer is quite simple: Doing so is by far the smartest political move, as the handling of DACA is a very fragile one in terms of the public perceptions it may easily have.

Obviously, DACA deals with extremely young children - often just a few years old - who are the ultimate characterization of any kind of sympathy that an average person might otherwise not feel for illegal immigrants. Adults might not garner such empathy from an average American citizen, but a child is a completely different story. And if President Trump were to rescind DACA unilaterally, it would all but guarantee a nonstop media bombardment as part of the latest media effort to stop President Trump. Contributing to the Democrats’ efforts to win back the House in 2018, the media would pitch in with daily anecdotes about various wide-eyed, crying child immigrants who are about to be sent back home - the three-year-old orphan about to be sent back to Venezuela, or the terminally-ill two-year old orphan about to be sent back to Nicaragua, and many, many more about to be sent back to such unstable countries in Central and South America - all because of the “heartless” and “uncaring” actions of President Trump and the Republican Party. It would be just one more PR headache that the Republicans would have little to no ammunition to fight back against.

Conversely, by letting it sit idly by as the states sue the government over DACA, and eventually see the courts strike it down as unconstitutional, the President still succeeds in seeing the law overturned while also conveying two significant messages that support his case: First, the law would fail not because of his own anti-illegal immigration agenda, but because it was fairly ruled by the courts as unconstitutional, who would thus have no choice but to repeal it. This is also crucial for establishing a legal precedent that can prevent similar legislation from being proposed - something a simple repeal would not accomplish. Second, the blame for this is instantly shifted from the President to the courts - a much harder target for the mainstream media to attack with legitimacy - and the states - which, due to being more localized and having a better reason to fight back against illegal immigration, are not going to be as easy of a battlefield for the Democrats to fight on in 2018.

As such, the President’s extremely calculated handling of DACA is easily on par with his ongoing handling of Obamacare. While some on the far-right may call for a full repeal of Obamacare with no replacement, Trump and his fellow pragmatists acknowledge that doing so only feeds the Democrats’ narrative even more and would amount to near political suicide for the Republicans, hence why the GOP is so committed to a solid replacement rather than repeal and nothing else. The same goes for DACA: The President is still every bit as determined to end this unconstitutional executive amnesty, but he is doing so in a way that allows him to wipe his hands clean of its demise, easing one more potential midterm burden on the party as a whole. And all the while, another promise has been kept.

You can follow the author on Twitter: @EricLendrum26.

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